Education and Empire: Education for Class Consciousness

Rich Gibson & E. Wayne Ross


Revised chapter for

Carr, P. R., & Porfilio, B. J. (Eds.). (2014). The phenomenon of Obama and the agenda for education: Can hope audaciously trump neoliberalism? (2nd ed.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Press.



If we are to face the crises of our day we must connect cause and effect, the whole with the parts, past-present-future. The task means connecting war with imperialism; economic collapse with capitalism; and the imperial project to designs on schools, what people know and how they come to know it. It means connecting solutions, that is, recognizing that fights in health care are necessarily fights in education; that the battles about immigration are also battles about wages, hours, and benefits. It means recognizing what is afoot: class war, an international war of the rich on the poor: the social relations of capitalism. The economic restructuring through massive job losses in almost every sector going on now will result in either a horrific defeat for the North American and world working class, or be mark as an awakening when people recognized the many boots on their throats. Last, making connections means transformation, overcoming the system of capital. Without that North Star, any social movement is directionless, recreating injustice in slightly new ways.


Keywords: capitalism, empire, imperialism, political economy, education reform, class work, class consciousness, democracy, war, resistance, rebellion



E. Wayne Ross is Professor at University of British Columbia and co-director of the Institute for Critical Education Studies. He is the author of numerous publications on curriculum theory, politics of education, and critical pedagogy. A former day care and secondary school teacher he is also co-founder of The Rouge Forum. He is editor of the journals Critical Education (, Cultural Logic (, and Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor ( and his publications include Neoliberalism and Education Reform (Hampton Press) and a special issue of the journal Works & Days titled “Education for Revolution,” both with Rich Gibson. Find him on the internet at and @ewayneross.


Rich Gibson, Emeritus Professor at San Diego State University, is a former autoworker, elementary and secondary school teacher, organizer, and bargaining specialist for several unions. He is the co-founder of The Rouge Forum, an organization of school workers, parents, and students seeking to transform education and society toward equity, democracy, and the freedom to live creative, connected lives. His research, asking “what do people need to know, and how do they need to come to know it in order to live in solidarity?” serves that end. He is co-editor of the journal Cultural Logic ( and his publications include Neoliberalism and Education Reform (Hampton Press) and a special issue of the journal Works & Days titled “Education for Revolution,” both with E. Wayne Ross. Find him on the internet at


Education and Empire Education for Class Consciousness

Rich Gibson & E. Wayne Ross


“Empire as a way of life will lead to nuclear death … I do not want empire. There are better ways to live. And better ways to die.”

William Appleman Williams (1980)


The sky is, of course, falling. We are lambs among wolves. The core issue of our time is the relationship of rising color-coded social and economic inequality challenged by the potential of mass class-conscious resistance. This can now be summed up as life and death, an issue that most North Americans avoided during nearly eight years of war because, while the U.S. supports one of the largest militaries in the world, its personnel amount to less than 1% of the population. The very real conflict also sets up a challenge often ignored: how can people become whole, that is, live reasonably meaningful intelligible lives in connection with others in the midst of a social collapse that can quickly become barbarizing?

If we are to face the crises of our day we must do what Nemesis author Chalmers Johnson (2007) claims most Americans cannot do: connect cause and effect, the whole with the parts, past-present-future–as Johnson rightly believes history is eradicated in America.

The task means connecting war with imperialism, economic collapse with capitalism, and the imperial project to designs on schools, what people know and how they come to know it. It means connecting solutions, that is, recognizing that fights in health care are necessarily fights in education, that the battles about immigration are also battles about wages, hours, and benefits. It means recognizing what is afoot: class war, an international war of the rich on the poor: the social relations of capitalism. The economic restructuring through massive job losses in almost every sector—2.6 million during the great financial collapse according to Goodman and Healy, (2009)—will result in either a horrific defeat for the North American and world working class, or be mark as an awakening when people recognized the many boots on their throats. Last, making connections means transformation, overcoming the system of capital. Without that North Star, any social movement is directionless, recreating injustice in slightly new ways.

Making Connections: The Elections of 2008, 2010, and 2012

Let us step back briefly and examine the elections. The recent elections should not only be studied as how voters chose who would most charmingly oppress the majority of the people from the executive committee of the rich, the government. It should be studied, as how an element of capitalist democracy, the spectacle of the election, has speeded the emergence of fascism as a mass popular force (Moore, 1957; Singer, 2002). That is:

·      the corporate state, the rule of the rich, near complete merger of corporations and government;

·      the continuation of the suspension of civil liberties (e.g., 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which legalizes indefinite detention of United States citizens and the prosecution of whistleblowers; Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which hinders the ability of human rights and humanitarian aid organizations to do their work by making it a crime to provide “material support” to designated "foreign terrorist organizations";
Post-9/11 national security policies that function, not under the U.S. Constitution, but under a new secret system that allows widespread surveillance and target killings, e.g. Obama “secret kill list”);

·      the attacks on whatever free press there is (e.g., government responses to WikiLeaks);

·      the rise of racism and segregation (in every way, but especially the immigration policies —Obama expelling more than 1,000 immigrant workers per day in 2013-2014);

·      the promotion of the fear of sexuality as a question of pleasure, (key to creating the inner slave), the sharpened commodification of women (Sarah Palin to the commodified Hillary Clinton to pole dancers),
attacks on GLBTQI community (e.g., Arizona’s discriminatory anti-gay bill, SB 1062); media’s objectification of transgender people, e.g. Dr. V, Lavern Cox, Carmen Carrera)

·      the governmental/corporate attacks on working peoples' wages and benefits (e.g., bailouts of banks and corporate giants “too big to fail,” to “merit” pay, to two-tier pay systems, to wage and benefit concessions and food stamp cuts);

·      intensification of imperialist war (sharpening , or losing: the war in Afghanistan sharpens war on Pakistan, which provokes war on Russia, stumbling through and misreading the farcical Arab Spring while funding jihadists in Libya, Egypt, and Syria; then partnering with neo-Nazi ultranationalists in the Ukraine coup; and the U.S. has not left Iraq's oil, but is being outbid by Chinese soft power while the “pivot to Asia” causes Chinese war preparations to accelerate);

·      the promotion of nationalism (all class unity) by, among others, the union bosses,
teaching people the lie that someone else should interpret reality and act for us, when no one is going to save us but us;

·      trivializing what is supposed to be the popular will to vile gossip, thus building cynicism—especially the idea that we cannot grasp and change the world, but also debasing whatever may have been left of a national moral sense;

·      increased mysticism (is it better to vote for a real religious fanatic or people who fake being religious fanatics?);

·      arrests and harassment of whistleblowers, both mainstream journalists and, assuredly, Chelsea Manning; and

·      incessant attacks on radicals.

That is a litany of the acceleration of fascism.

Al Szymanski outlined the functions of the capitalist state’s democracy three decades ago. This is a reminder:

·      To guarantee the accumulation of capital and profit maximization and make it legitimate;

·      Preserve, form, and temper, capitalist class rule;

·      Raise money to fund the state;

·      Guarantee and regulate the labor force;

·      Facilitate commerce;

·      Ensure buying power in the economy;

·      Directly and indirectly subsidize private corporations;

·      State sanction of self-regulation of corporations; and

·      Advance the overseas interests of corporations.

Democracy does not dominate capital. Democracy submits, atomizes voters to individuals huddled in ballot booths asking capital’s favorite question: What about Me?

Let us continue to make connections, this time foreign and domestic policy.

Making Connections: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Collapsed Economy

What is U.S. foreign policy? It is largely unchanged post-Bush–but speeding headlong. It is war for empire, regional control, markets, natural resources, in particular, oil. That is why the U.S. is in Afghanis tan (it is not Al-Qaeda that was at one point nearly out of business, but is now virtually merged with the Taliban and grows throughout Africa and the Arab world, and it is not the Taliban whose potential pipelines were hugged by the U.S. years ago—though worries about nuclear Pakistan destabilized by a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are real enough).

Empire is why the U.S. has been in Iraq, and is not going to leave (the mercenaries remain). The permanent bases, six by our count, say otherwise, and so does every military expert working in the Obama administration. The wars’ cost, depending on your analyst, about $2 trillion, though we must acknowledge the military budget is obscured by secrecy.

Failed wars have a lot to do, but not entirely to do, with the economic collapse that continues to spiral while Obama, like the sorcerer's apprentice, tries to contain it. The containment, so far, adds up to well over $12 trillion, though that too is a secret, as are the recipients, in the midst of proclamations about transparency. Bloomberg is one of the few news groups willing to sue for the information (Chittum, 2009).

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and bailouts were sheer robbery achieved by the use of power that goes to the nature of U.S. society itself. When we hear “the economy, “ and “our government, “ we should think, “Their economy, their government.”

Where the bailout money has gone is still largely a secret. Where it is going to go is a secret. Which banks the FDIC visited is still even a secret. No big bankers are jailed or prosecuted, although J. P Morgan’s Jamie Dimon appears to be a serial fraudster: tens of million in fines led to a 70% raise. This all may be made palpable by the press who portrays those who seek prosecutions and jailings as filled with, for example, “blood lust” (Jackson, 2014).

The bailout is not trickling down. Why should banks lend to people who are already in debt at a rate more than their annual incomes—about 50% of Americans? The total debt of the U.S. government, including unfunded entitlement obligations such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. adds up as a debt of more than $190,000 per citizen, more than $57 trillion and that is before the bailouts began (America’s Total Debt Report, 2011; Foster, 2009). To nearly all economists, before the bust, that was a secret. Societies whose veins run with secrecy, which run on rumors and fanciful hopes, verge on tyranny. But it is no secret that the stimulus is already stimulating sharp battles between state, county, and city governments over who gets what, and who holds the reins—must assuredly not those who do the work.

The stimulus missed one key element. It represents a conflict inside the U.S. ruling classes, who use the government as their executive committee and armed weapon, with the man Glenn Ford, of the Black Agenda Report, calls the “more effective evil,” Obama, as the Chair (Ford, 2012)

This battle can be oversimplified as a struggle between old-line capital, as with the Rockefeller backed Council on Foreign Relations, and newer capital, like the Bush/Cheney crowd, as well as a struggle between finance capital, investment banks, and more immediately productive industrial capital, like the “Big 3 “ automakers (we can easily see the financier winners and auto losers in that). Nevertheless, it is a fight with each player acting, not out of high aims for the patriotic good, but the narrowest forms of opportunism, what Lady Astor called, “running off higgledy-piggledy,” after the nearest dollar. Before the TARP, Treasury Secretary Paulsen asked J. P. Morgan’s Jamie Dimon to chip in to save the U.S. banking system. Dimon responded, in a fit of patriotism, “...I’d do anything for you and this country, but not if it’s going to jeopardize J. P. Morgan” (Sorkin, 2009).

The many heads of finance never separated from the many bodies of productive industrial capital, but the heads of finance serving as generals of the moneyed class believed they did, until the bodies of overproduction, corruption, and waste pulled them back.

We are readying ourselves to enter a long tunnel full of blood and darkness.”

Andre Gide (July 28, 1914)

The U.S. is in a desperate situation. The military was fought to a standstill in Iraq. The best the U.S. can hope for is a draw in Afghanistan. Stephen Biddle (2009) of the Council on Foreign Relations (members are sprinkled all over the Obama regime) testified to that effect before Congress. The Obama line tracks behind Biddle’s writing. Biddle is quite clear: The U.S. is going to be in Iraq a long time, and probably longer in Afghanistan, at a cost of perhaps 50 to 100 dead a month. As we write today, the appearance is that the U.S. has left Iraq, or so the public believes, and is about to leave Afghanistan, but the mercenaries, the Joint Special Operations Command, Obama’s private army, the CIA, will remain at work—and the drones will continue to fly–while Iraq unravels into a civil war and, again, a staging ground for Al-Qaeda.

The U.S. is a declining world power ideologically, morally, politically, economically, and militarily. The government stands exposed as opposing the common good—as with the massive opposition to the first bailout before the Obama/McCain election—it cannot meet the elementary needs of the people, housing to jobs to health care to veterans’ benefits, to food stamps (cut in a shockingly callous move in early 2014) to old age assistance.

U.S. elites are aware of their own weaknesses, so are their potential enemies. We saw Russia attack Georgia, a U.S. ally, and the U.S. did nothing. Russia challenged Europe and shut down pipelines. The U.S. and Europe only whined. Obama drew a “red line,” around Syria’s Assad, was upended by Vice President Biden, then challenged by Russia’s Putin, and forgot about the red line.

And, as we write this, a familiar scenario is playing out in Ukraine, following an Obama-back coup in which an ultranationalist, neo-Nazi coalition, Right Sector, played a key role in deposing a fairly elected, though thoroughly corrupt government. The Ukraine coup is no democratic revolution, rather an imperialist consolidation of the capitalist counterrevolution by western finance capital (Vogt-Downey, 2014). In February, 2014, the U.S. responded to the Russians (during the quite successful Olympics) with a CIA/National Endowment for Democracy faux revolution, by backing Ukrainian nationalists, many of them flying swastikas, against a corrupt Putin-backed, but elected, Yanukovych regime. Obama threatened “costs,” but was rather boxed in by his need for Russian support vis-à-vis the Syrian civil war and the revised “hope and change” dreams about Iran’s nuclear program. This all only heightens international tensions and distracts from the U.S. stated “pivot to Asia” (read China’s rise, preparations of their own blue water fleet, and provocative moves toward Taiwan and Japan).

In Europe, national political and economic rulers retreat to the comfort and protection of their home militaries as the notion of a united continent evaporates in a wash of economic realities and old hatreds. But, the contradictory nature of capital popped up when General Motors demanded a bailout from Europe, after decades of “Buy Americanism” from both GM management and the United Auto Workers.

The collapsed economy and failing wars turn up in domestic policy where, we note with humor, Obama has participated in, and now led, perhaps the most massive transfer of wealth in history, gone on a breathtaking spending spree, yet he promises to balance the budget.

Making Connections: The Economic Meltdown Sparks Global Unrest; Prompts Plans to use Military Power to Curb Civil Unrest

As global capitalism implodes there is has been a marked up-tick in social upheaval worldwide. Now establishment analysts are expressing their concerns about “class conflict “ and “civil war “ in the USA.

The financial crisis has sparked unrest globally and particularly across Europe, with demonstrations, strikes, and protests in 16 European countries (Factbox, 2009). Here are a just a few examples:

·      Tens of thousands of workers marched in Lisbon, Portugal on March, 2010 against the policies of the Socialist government, which unions say are increasing unemployment and favoring the rich at a time of crisis;

·      Hundreds of workers at Bulgaria's Kremikovtzi steel mill protested in 2010 over planned lay-offs and unpaid salaries, demanding the Socialist-led government find a buyer for the insolvent plant; thousands of police officers marched in Sofia on Sunday to demand a 50 percent wage rise and better working conditions;

·      In Greece, the fatal police shooting of a 15-year old in December 2010 sparked the country's worst riots in decades, fueled by anger at economic hardships and youth unemployment. Anarchists and left wing guerrilla groups have followed up with a wave of attacks against banks and police; Greek unions, representing about 2.5 million workers, have also staged repeated protests against the government saying its measures to tackle the global crisis only burden the poor. There have been 30 massive general strikes by Greek workers between 2010-2013 (General strike against cuts brings Greece to a halt, 2013);

·      In 2009 over 100,000 people marched against cutbacks in Ireland. (Crimmins, 2009).
In early 2014, the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa, having led numerous job actions that were violently attacked, murderously so, broke with the African National Congress and its guiding hand, the South African Communist Party, while threatening more on the job direct action;

·      The M15/Indignados (“the outraged”) movement in Spain has continued, since 2011, a series of ongoing demonstrations that have brought between 6.5 and 8 million Spaniards to the streets, in over 80 cities, protesting privatization, budget cuts, and other austerity measures that aim to satisfy the demands of finance capitalists and redefining the relationship between finance and human rights (Aigner, 2013; Sanchez, 2012).

·      The Arab Spring, followed by the Ukrainian insurrection, on the one hand indicates a rejection of both Soviet and Chinese style socialism —a return to medievalism—and on the other hand, a rejection of authoritarian corruption and a turn back toward fascism. All of that, however apparently mindless it may be, underlines Zbigniew Brzezinski’s fear, enunciated in “Strategic Vision,” (2012) that the people of the world are becoming sufficiently politically conscious, literate, to recognize grotesque inequality, oppose a single hegemon, and act— even if in our eyes without a rational grand strategy.

High unemployment rates have led to protests in Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in South Africa, Britain and France (Salmarsh & Jolly, 2009; Schwartz, 2009).

A half-million Mexican truckers shut down the countries highways to protest high fuel prices (Truckers protest fuel prices, 2009). In Oaxaca, teachers struck again and again, demanding job protections, pay, and teaching resources, between 2006 and 2014. In late 2013 and early 2014, armed citizens, called “vigilantes” by the U.S. press, attacked drug cartels in Michoacan, a force that occasionally had the support of the Federales, but worried elites like newly elected President Nieto.

In December 2009, Russian riot police busted up protests in Vladivostok against new taxes intended to “help prop up Russia's domestic car industry and prevent people buying cheaper, imported products.” BBC reports that the protests were fueled by the severe impact of the global economic crisis on Russia. According to Newsweek , “the Russian Interior Ministry set up a special command center in Moscow, packed with surveillance equipment designed to deal with street unrest. The Duma, on Kremlin instructions, added seven new articles to the criminal code including a law that makes “participating in mass disorders “ such as the one in Vladivostok a 'crime against the state” (Matthews & Nemtsova, 2009). Eight hundred thousand Russians lost their jobs in December and January, making the total number of unemployed more than 6 million or8.1 percent. Gennady Gudkov, former KGB colonel and current chair of the Duma's security committee, said, “We are expecting mass unemployment and mass riots. There will be not enough police to stop people's protests by force” (Younge, 2009).

There a have been massive general strikes in the French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion (Fidler, 2009). The general strike in Guadeloupe prompted the French government to fly in riot police (Guadeloupe is a French “overseas department “ in the Caribbean). And while the general strike lasted 6 weeks—it ended on March 4 with an agreement among the strike collective, the employers federation and local and French governments, which granted 20 of the strikers primary demands and set out negotiations on a long list of remaining issues— strikes and protests continue, involving tens of thousands of workers (Martinique demonstrators, 2009).

Just as the general strike ended in Guadeloupe (Guadeloupe strike ends, 2009), social unrest over economic conditions spread to Réunion, a French “overseas department “ in the Indian Ocean (French unrest spreads, 2009).

There is a pattern developing worldwide. U.S. elites are starting to worry about what might happen if the American workers take action as a result of their frustrations with massive economic inequalities.

United States Prepares for Class War

Sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein (2009) discusses the breakdown of taboos as the world's economy continues to disintegrate. He notes establishment analysts, such as Alan Greenspan, Senator Lindsay Graham, and economist Alan Blinder have seriously discussed “nationalization” of banks and industry.

But Wallerstein's most dramatic example of the breakdown of taboos is the open discussion of the possibility of class war breaking out in the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, noted above, apostle of anti-Communist ideology and President Carter's National Security Advisor, appeared on a morning television talk show in February 2009, and was asked to discuss his previous mention of the possibility of class conflict in the United States in the wake of the worldwide economic collapse.

Brzezinski was straightforward about the belief that class war in America is real possibility:


JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.


ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America… what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?


We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out. But what about the rich guys? Where is it? [What are they] doing?


Brzezinski went on to compare the current economic meltdown to the “Panic of 1907”:


It sort of struck me, that in 1907, when we had a massive banking crisis, when banks were beginning to collapse, there were going to be riots in the streets. Some financiers, led by J. P. Morgan, got together. He locked them in his library at one point. He wouldn’t let them out … until they all kicked in and gave some money to stabilize the banks: there was no Federal Reserve at the time.


Where is the moneyed class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions. I’m sort of thinking of Paulson, of Rubin [former treasury secretaries]. Why don’t they get together, and why don’t they organize a National Solidarity Fund in which they call on all of those who made these extraordinary amounts of money to kick some back in to [a] National Solidarity Fund?


… if we don’t get some sort of voluntary National Solidarity Fund, at some point there’ll be such political pressure that Congress will start getting in the act, there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots! [1]

Wallerstein points out that “almost simultaneously “ LEAP/Europe a European agency that issues monthly confidential bulletins for its clients—politicians, public servants, businessmen, and investors—devoted its February issue to global geopolitical dislocation, discussing the possibility of civil war in Europe, in the United States, and Japan; and foreseeing a “generalized stampede “ that will lead to clashes, semi-civil wars (Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin, 2009).

Wallerstein (2009) quotes the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin as saying if your country or region is a zone in which there is a massive availability of guns, the best thing you can to leave the region, if that's possible. Wallerstein emphases that

these analyses are not coming from left intellectuals or radical social movements.…Verbal taboos are broken only when such people are truly fearful. The point of breaking the taboos is to try to bring about major rapid action - the equivalent of J. P. Morgan locking the financiers in his home in 1907”. (Wallerstein, 2009).

U.S. elites are obviously fearful enough to start planning for military responses to potential social upheaval as a result of the collapsing economy. The U.S. War College's Strategic Studies Institute posited a number of “strategic surprises “ that the country should be prepared for, including potential for disruption and violence caused by the economy's failure. The report “Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development,” says “widespread civil violence inside the U.S. would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security” (Freier, 2008).

For the first time ever, U.S. military units are staged and are training inside the country to address civil unrest rising from inequality. The Army Timeshas reported on the U.S. Northern Command's deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Combat Brigade Team on U.S. soil for “civil unrest “ and “crowd control “ duties. The 5,000-member force was one of first units deployed in Baghdad (Cavallaro, 2008; Rothschild, 2008).

The Education Agenda as a War Agenda

These factors all appear in schools where money plays a very significant, but not the primary, role. The primary role of capitalist schooling is social control, winning the children of the poor and working classes to be loyal, obedient, dutiful, and useful, to ruling classes under a variety of lies: We are all in this together; this is a multicultural society, democracy trumps inequality, we all can be President, etc. Kids learn the ethics of slaves, perhaps an important reason why there is so little outcry from the rank and file of the military, engaged in war crimes worldwide, but well educated.

We said, months before the 2008 election, that Obama will continue the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush education agenda that came into being after the ruling classes nearly lost control of the schools and universities during and after they lost the Vietnam war—ran away. That agenda can be summarized by:

·      The regimentation of curricula (phonics, abstract math, the eradication of history and academic freedom);

·      Racist and anti-working class high stakes examination;

·      The deepening militarization of schooling (JROTC, ROTC, CIA, NSA, ICE, HS, etc. all over campuses).

We added that, in some instances, Obama's cadre would turn to privatization and in others they will not, depending mostly on the interaction of profitability and social control.

         One remarkable example of the merger of the corporate and the government is Bob Bobb’s arrival in Detroit, to oversee the Detroit Public School’s finances (while a dysfunctional school board is allowed to pretend it control s whatever is left). Mr. Bobb was on the DPS payroll at about $250,000; his salary was supplemented by the right-wing Broad Foundation, where he was trained, at nearly $100,000 per year. Bobb turned three Detroit high schools over to WalMart; not privatized, but corporatized. Bobb left DPS and was replaced by an odd, “Good bank/Bad bank” school system, the former the old Detroit Public Schools, the latter, an Educational Achievement Authority which was to vacuum up all the failing schools in Michigan (but really only Detroit) and fix them—deepening separation in an already fully segregated system. Then, in 2013, the entire Detroit teaching force was fired. The Detroit Federation of Teachers did nothing but sue for the right to force members to pay dues in what had become a right-to-work state—once the birthplace of industrial unionism (Gibson, 2013, Feburary).

Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary, broadly followed that path, rushing along with Race to the Top (RaTT) and later the Common Core plans for merit pay rooted in test results, the abolition of some teacher job protection, a nationally regulated curriculum, more militarization in poor areas and national service to siphon off middle class discontent, privatized charters like those favored by the Broad Foundation and the takeover of some urban school system, like Detroit, by Broad-trained and funded Mr. Bobb. Leaders of teacher unions, the National Education Association (largest union in the U.S. by far) and the American Federation of Teachers assist the Obama project at every turn; AFT President Randi Weingarten said the union would “embrace the goals and aspirations outlined” by Obama in his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Phillip, 2009). With NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, she and union operatives helped create the Common Core, another test platform, and urged member support for the curriculum written by the Gates Foundation.

Obama’s education plan is based on the same rhetoric (fear mongering) and reasoning that produced the educationally disastrous No Child Left Behind debacle (Stedman, 2010; 2011). Indeed, Diane Ravitch, right-wing education policy analyst at New York University, member of the CIA sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, and Assistant Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration opined, that Obama has given President George W. Bush a third term in education policy and that Arne Duncan is the male version of Margaret Spellings [Education Secretary in Bush’s second term]. Maybe he really is Margaret Spellings without the glasses and wearing very high heels. We all know that Secretary Spellings greeted Duncan's appointment with glee. She wrote him an open letter in which she praised him as “a fellow reformer” who supports NCLB and anticipated that he would continue the work of the Bush administration. (Ravitch, 2009)

Like his predecessors, Obama misrepresents public education performance as a scare tactic and to open the door for both corporate state schooling and privatization. The late Gerald Bracey has cataloged recent errors in Obama’s claims about public schools (Bracey, 2009). Here are a few examples:

·      Obama claims that graduation rates have fallen from 77% to 67%, but the U. S. Department of Education says the best method for estimating it puts it at 74.5% nationally.

·      Obama said dropout rates have tripled over the past 30 years. But how does a 10% decline in graduation rate equal a 300% increase in dropout rate?

·      Obama claims “Just a third of our 13- and 14-year-olds can read as well as they should. “ Bracey calls this claim “outright garbage” (Bracey, 2007).
Obama “raved about South Korean schools but neglected to say that thousands of South Korean families sell their children—yes, sell—to American families so their kids can: (a) learn English and (b) avoid the horrible rigidity of Korean schools. And, while the U.S. trails Korea on average test scores, it has a higher proportion of students scoring at the highest level on the Program of International Student Achievement (PISA). Moreover, it has the highest number of high scorers (67,000) of any country. No one else even comes close.

·      Obama praises charters for creativity and innovation. But study after study of charters has come away saying they were surprised at how much the charter schools look like regular public schools. And charter schools don't score as well on tests as regular public schools. You can't bash the public schools on test scores then praise the charters, which have lower scores (Bracey, 2009).

·      While this is all true, it is equally true that U.S. schooling, as Marxist philosopher Bertell Ollman says, “works.” It’s not failing when so many poor people are illiterate (over 40% Detroit). It is doing what it must do. In this sense, it is not “public” education, presumably a “leading out,” but capitalist schooling. After all, every child in every school is represented by a dollar sign. In California, each student is worth about $5,000 per year, notably down nearly $900 from 2008.

Obama’s education stimulus package continues the regimentation of curriculum and test-driven approach to education by bribing states and school districts to apply for $5 billion in grants largely aimed at boosting student test scores. These grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top Fund.” The Common Core adopted a similar strategy of bribe and punish; yet some states moved to reject the project.

Obama, Duncan, and the rest do this because that is what they must do in the social context they are in, and because they have chosen sides in what is the class war, the international war of the rich on the poor, which the rich recognize and the poor, at least in the U.S., do not, yet.

Again, this is the core issue of our time: the interaction of rising inequality and mass, class-conscious, resistance. That is why the education budget is a war budget. It is class war, and empires’ wars.

Those who reject this fact not only mislead others—as did hundreds of liberal pundits and counterfeit radicals who fashioned the hysteria that continues around Obama—but they also set up poor and working people for the emergence of fascism, the corporate state that emerges around us now. For example, the $12.9 trillion bank bailouts, money which can never be retrieved, a move that can never be reversed (unlike stopping a war), cutting the legs off the future of youth and the corporate state fully come forth.

This includes, for example, columnist Robert Scheer who called the Obama near-bank nationalization, “fascist, “ then turned about and concluded that Obama is okay (Scheer, 2009). Or education big-wig Linda Darling Hammond who waived pom-poms for Obama, then wandered off from the Obama education department, disillusioned, but never issued a self-criticism about what she did, or a warning about what scared her off (Bracey, 2009).

Those who feel betrayed by Obama, like Scheer and Darling-Hammond, actually betrayed thousands of people themselves by marching them into the teeth of his charming grin. And those who knew their operation was a scam, like the education union bureaucrats, willfully set up their members for defeat.

In many nations, schools are the centripetal organizing point of life. The contradiction of inequality and resistance already appears in education worldwide. Those who are hit first and worst, that is those who were born with the least inheritance or who have lesser powers, are likely to fight back first—though not necessarily with strategic or even tactical wisdom: New York University building takeovers, the March 4th student actions of 2010, graduate assistant resistance, a growing movement of adjuncts, standardized test boycotters, Detroit school job actions. [2]

But there is little organized class-conscious resistance. The anti-war movement wasted the potential demonstrated when millions of people hit the streets against the Iraq invasion. Most anti-war activity in the past years was aimed at electing a demagogue, Obama, who was more open and honest than many of his liberal and left backers in proclaiming he had every intention of sustaining and expanding the empire’s wars.

The anti-war movement failed not only to mobilize action but, more importantly, it failed to take up the pedagogical and practical tasks at hand: teaching people how to develop grand strategy, strategy, and tactics inside specific communities rooted in rational answers about why things are as they are, and then, just what it is that needs to be done.

In education, pivotal to social mastery, the leaders of the two unions, the NEA and the AFT, with a combined membership of nearly 4,500,000, poured millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours into the Obama election twice, diverting member attention from their real source of power: their ability to control or at least influence their work places, the curriculum, the assessments, the military invasion, privatization, and the very reality of whether school should be opened or closed.

Then the education union leaders worked behind the scenes to snare workers in a union of the wreckage of the AFL-CIO and the Change To Win Coalition, the splinter group that firmly believes in corporate state unionism—the unity of business, labor and government in the national interest. Leaders of both teachers’ unions are already engaged in offering extensive concessions, allowing layoffs, doing nothing about mass firings (the national office of the American Federation of Teachers didn’t blink as all Detroit’s teachers were fired, nor did the purportedly militant Chicago Teachers’ Union, nearby) encouraging school workers to hit out at other working people as with the California Teachers Association demands that the state raise the regressive sales tax.

Given the child abuse that is the No Child Left Behind Act, the RaTT, and now the Common Core, closed schools buttressed by freedom schooling in the midst of social strife are superior to most everyday schooling (Gibson & Ross, 2007). To reach that point, education organizers will have to fight their way through a phalanx of union bosses.

Professional organizations in the field of education have been no better. The National Council for Social Studies, claiming to be the core group concerned with teaching for democratic citizenship in the U.S., has had rare presentations from Rouge Forum members, only, opposing the wars and predicting financial calamity. Absent that, NCSS said nothing but to support imperialist war that sends the children of the poor, on all sides, to fight and kill children of the poor from other nations, all acting on behalf of the rich in their homelands, that is, capitalist democracy.

During his initial presidential campaign, Obama supported linking teacher pay based upon their students’ test scores. He made good on his promise with RaTT money (Stout, 2009). But teacher pay for student test scores is already an established practice in U.S. schools. Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, used test-based performance pay while he was C.E.O. of Chicago Public Schools, New York City Schools embarked on a project to evaluate teachers based on test scores. Washington DC schools chief, Michelle Rhee, bargained an agreement with the AFT that teacher evaluations will be tied to students’ scores on standardized tests. The Detroit Federation of Teachers mirrored that.

Paying teachers for student performance is not new. History shows that most of the gains from such programs are destructive illusions that narrow the curriculum and encourage teachers and administrators to cheat—as we have seen with the so-called “Texas Miracle “ under the duo of Governor George W. Bush and his first Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, who presided over Houston schools when test scores there were enormously inflated (A Texas Tall Tale, 2008; Heilig & Darling-Hammond, 2008).

Welford Wilms and Richard Chapleau of UCLA have examined pay for results schemes implemented in England, Canada, and the U.S. in the last two centuries and conclude few results that are forced on the schools (especially destructive ones like pay-for-results) will ever penetrate the classroom and positively change the teaching and learning processes (Welms & Chapleau, 1999). Yet, the Obama stimulus plan includes a continuing bribe to school workers. And, the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund is providing $200 million for teacher and principal compensation linked to student test scores.

How long will educators continue to exchange reasonably good pay, benefits, and some security for staying mum about the nature of imperialist warfare, for implementing racist high stakes exams that not only intimidate and make dishonest everyone in a class room, but that also segregate children wrongly by class and race–under a fictitious veneer of science, hiding privilege behind a veneer of accomplishment? The tests, in turn, are being used to segregate teachers as merit pay, linked to test scores, expands under the Obama administration—proving out the many steps of alienation: no control of the process and product of work, becoming less human to self and others, the test scores reified as measures for real estate values, becoming an instrument of your own servitude; losing.

The stimulus package provided an immediate $44 billion in temporary money for schools and comes with instructions from Duncan that schools should “spend funds quickly “ in ways that increase test scores and keep the receipts. While there is still a veil of secrecy around even the real education money, it appears that much of it is dedicated to school buildings, technology, etc. Much of the money will go to developers; unionist construction workers will battle with their non-union counterparts for what is left—another example of the ability of capital’s relations to sort, divide and rule.

State financial crises are as real as the federal crisis. It is unclear as to whether the stimulus will be sufficient to offset cuts to programs and personnel in recent years, much less cuts to state education budgets in the coming year. For those who continue to have jobs, that state, city and federal taxes will wipe out any income boost now promised. California’s sun shines on the best example; even with the bailout, the state remains in the red.

Ruling classes have experience with suppressing rebellion. They know uprisings are often initiated by disgruntled, angry, educated, members of the middle or upper middle classes, who are cut off from opportunities during hard times. Keeping those people inside the evanescence of limited privilege is important. It is an ethic that pops the bubble, says, “No” and leads to action.

The ethics that drove the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement were wiped away by decades of mendacious pluralist postmodernism (religion with an angry cloak, which discarded the labor theory of value, the key role of exploited labor and made peace with the capitalist state) , years of consumerism (70 percent of the U.S. economy until the bottom fell out), by the absence of example from turncoat leaders in the trade unions and professional ranks; by the elimination of history in classrooms as Chalmers Johnson forewarned; the upshot being that inside a nation teetering on the brink of the collapse of its ruling classes, the resistance must resurrect its memory of what it is to be in a truly moral fight–right against wrong, equality against inequality, justice against tyranny.

Here are four resistance ethics worth restoring to life:

·      We are responsible for our own histories, if not our birthrights.

·      Solidarity and equality; an injury to one only goes before an injury to all.

·      It is wrong to exploit other people.
Justice demands organization and action where it counts.

·      It’s right to rebel.



Connecting Reason To Passion, Passion To Ethics, Ethics To Organization, And Organization To Action

We wrote in Counterpunch, we do not need to be lambs among wolves. There is a real fight ahead (Gibson & Ross, 2008). We suggested a financial collapse could speed the rise of fascism, arriving in respectable garb. We make no Cassandra claims about our ability to predict the future—nor anyone’s desire to believe us. We came to the conclusion that economic collapse and imperialist war was inevitable years ago. In the nineties, meeting with middle school teachers, we said, “You are looking at the troops in the next oil war.We foresaw the wars, but not September 11, 2001 (Chalmers Johnson came close). We did that by using dialectical and historical materialism, Marxist political economy, as an investigatory tool.

We especially appreciated work by John Bellamy Foster, whose incisive work outlined the looming disaster. Foster recently summed up his view in response to a question that may make it easy to grasp:

No I am not equating stagnation, stagflation, and overproduction. though they overlap. Stagnation, i.e. slow growth, rising unemployment/underemployment, high excess capacity, etc. reemerged in the 1970s. Initially, there was a period of stagflation (stagnation plus inflation). The inflationary part was brought under control but not the underlying stagnation, which continued. Under monopoly capital (or monopoly-finance capital) actual overproduction is not the dominant tendency since the demand shortfalls show up in overcapacity rather than overproduction. Corporations cut back on output pretty quickly and lower their capacity utilization (fully competitive capitalism didn't work this way). You could say, though, that it is a case of implicit overproduction, so there is no real contradiction. Of course a build up of productive capacity, which is increasingly underutilized, fits just as well with Marx's statement, ‘the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself. (Foster, 2009)

Foster’s repeated insistence that there are no sustainable solutions within the capitalist system that will serve what is the common good is courageous.

Robert P. Brenner, interviewed in the Asia Pacific Journal , said,

What mainly accounts for it is a deep, and lasting, decline of the rate of return on capital investment since the end of the 1960s. The failure of the rate of profit to recover is all the more remarkable, in view of the huge drop-off in the growth of real wages over the period. The main cause, though not the only cause, of the decline in the rate of profit has been a persistent tendency to overcapacity in global manufacturing industries. What happened was that, one-after-another, new manufacturing power entered the world market—Germany and Japan, the Northeast Asian NICs (Newly Industrializing Countries), the Southeast Asian Tigers, and, finally, the Chinese Leviathan. These later-developing economies produced the same goods that were already being produced by the earlier developers, only cheaper. The result was too much supply compared to demand in one industry after another, and this forced down prices and, in that way, profits. The corporations that experienced the squeeze on their profits did not, moreover, meekly leave their industries. They tried to hold their place by falling back on their capacity for innovation, speeding up investment in new technologies. But, of course, this only made overcapacity worse. Due to the fall in their rate of return, capitalists were getting smaller surpluses from their investments. They, therefore, had no choice but to slow down the growth of plants and equipment and employment. At the same time, in order to restore profitability, they held down employees’ compensation, while governments reduced the growth of social expenditures. But the consequence of all these cutbacks in spending has been a long-term problem of aggregate demand. The persistent weakness of aggregate demand has been the immediate source of the economy’s long-term weakness. (Brenner, 2009).

Brenner concluded,

The bottom line is that, like Roosevelt, Obama can be expected to take decisive action in defense of working people only if he is pushed by way of organized direct action from below.The Roosevelt administration passed the main progressive legislation of the New Deal, including the Wagner Act and Social Security, only after it was pressured to do so by a great wave of mass strikes. We can expect the same from Obama…where they should be active is in trying to revive the organizations of working people. Without the re-creation of working class power, little progress will be possible, and the only way to recreate that power is by way of mobilization for direct action. Only through working people taking action, collectively and en masse, will they be able to create the organization and amass the power necessary to provide the social basis, so to speak, for a transformation of their own consciousness, for political radicalization. (Brenner, 2009, emphasis aded).

Marx went to the heart of the issue: shortage of effective demand. For Marx, there was never any doubt about the root cause of capitalist economic crises. “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit” (Marx, 1967, p. 484).

However, Professor Foster’s profound analysis of the source of crisis offers no radical project on how to get from here, capital in ruins, to there, the transcendence of capital, no strategy and tactics, about how people might take on the system of capital, even as a beginning, and transform it.

Brenner believes the world’s ruling classes hope to use the U.S. military might as an international police officer, preventing wider wars.

We believe inter-imperialist rivalry will sharpen, especially over oil, but also over regional control, water, markets, cheap labor, the usual suspects of imperialism. U.S. social, military, and moral weaknesses only exacerbate the tensions and make conflict more likely.

Given the mantra, true as it is, that the Second World War alone solved the depression, armed conflict could be tempting to some who have never witnessed it. War means work and profits, setting up popular national unity, even if fleeting.

At the same time, we are troubled by wild-card players who could set off unpredictable warfare: Al-Qaeda, Israel, Pakistan, etc. Our estimate is wider war over time.

We offer an expansion on the foundation that Foster, Brenner, and others are fashioning. We return to Marx’s combat with political economists of old who treated the system of capital as a collection of gods with minds and lives of their own. Today, we see mainstream economists, really apologists, suggesting The Market does this, The Market does that, when it is people at work, and other people dominating work. And some Marxist economists (Foster and Brenner exempted) focus in much the same way, tracing the movement of finance capital—its volatile expansions and busts—in great detail, without examining what is key about capital: social relations; people in their struggle with nature to produce and reproduce life and its means, to seek rational knowledge in order to survive, and for freedom.

Simultaneously, we see much of what most people think of as the left dodging the failure of socialism—capitalism with a party claiming benevolence in the lead—the betrayals of the world’s “communist” parties and trade unions, the real dilemma of the imperial payout to the empire’s working classes and especially their mis-leaders; meaning that without a sharp historical critique of the past any future struggle is undermined.

We are also struck by this paradox: much of the left shies away from the use of the term capitalism. We see two mistaken motives. Some of the left seems to believe that people can only learn in baby-step fashion and cannot be told of the frights of the world economic system—when the term is now in daily use on TV talk shows. Others on the left, whose tactics we surely understand, operate in what they seem to think are secret wings of parties—meaning they cannot openly expose their claim to Marx and surely not the heart of the theory—revolution; the upshot being that the ruling classes and their police are fully aware of how these groups do analysis, while the people they hope to influence do not.

A third problem arises from the faux left: a vacuum of thought between what is and what ought to be. For example, David Bacon’s recent book on immigration, The Right To Stay Home, suggests just that conditions should be so good in Latin America and Mexico that nobody should have to move unless they so choose. On one hand, conditions for the vast majority of people in Mexico—even before the arrival of empires—have rarely been so good that they would want to remain if better conditions appeared, and on the other hand, if capitalism and imperialism are off the table of critique, as they are in this work, just what is to be done? (Bacon, 2013).

Steve Early’s Save Our Unions, follows exactly the same path. Early refuses to recognize that the U.S. labor movement, being the AFL-CIO and National Education Association, has always been a project favoring capital and empire, always divided people by job, race, class—and in the case of the AFL, sought to destroy every major job action of the rank and file since the its inception. Why save that? (Early, 2013; Gibson, 2013, October)

An extensive internet search demonstrates that both Bacon and Early are extraordinarily close to the International Socialist Organization, a Trotskyist group which also boasts the membership of Jesse Sharkey, the vice-president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

The absence of a serious critique of capital and empire in the open work of all three leads to a brief discussion that directly relates to the matter of education and empire: the dialectical relationship of opportunism and sectarianism.

Sectarianism and opportunism are twins of the same mother, two faces of opposition to real critical and democratic citizenship. Both reify truth, locating truth outside the realm of tests in social practice. The sectarians usually locate truth inside the party's central committee, for the opportunists, truth is in their minds–or wallets. Opportunists abandon the interests of the many for the interests of the few. Sectarians confuse the interests of the few with the interests of the many. Both sectarianism and opportunism are based at once in deep fear of the people, elitism, contempt for mass class conscious struggle; and in support of privilege, hero iconicization, mesmerized mass action, or passivity. Past practice demonstrates that once the party of revolution is in power, stop wondering about equality or the division of surplus value; wait for the promised land of abundance. Then we will share, from benevolence. Sectarianism overestimates the primacy of the material world, making it appear that matter changes only at its own reified pace. Opportunism contends that matter is only changed through the force of (too often secret) ideas, often individual ideas, and not concrete, analytical, egalitarian mass struggle. Sectarianism and opportunism combine to form the fatalistic belief that the world, matter, will surely change in ways we desire. Both finally limit or deny the significance of fully reflective human agency—grasping and transforming the world at its political and economic roots. We have seen these mis-estimations quickly turn into the opposites of their civic claims far too often. For left Hegelianism, sectarianism, and right Hegelianism, opportunism, change happens along a line of accumulated, predictable, nearly inevitable, ingredients or change happens because we wish it so. Both reality and/or change are constructs of the mind, usually the Mind in charge. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The resolution of this is a deep probe into the intersections of mind and matter, in the construction of everyday life, in using critical theory–originating in Marx–to make the reproductive veils of capital transparent, and to grasp what useful elements of the future are built into the present–and to look into the future.

We are aware of the dangers of the emergence of fascism, the remaining Patriot Act, the Snowden exposes of mass constant surveillance, and we are not so foolish to write what would be necessary should fascism arrive full blown, but in this period we urge openness and the related risks.

If it is true that the crux of the matter is inequality and imperialist warfare, children of the poor killing other children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands, at hyper-speed; contradicted by the chance of mass, organized, class conscious resistance, and if it is equally true that the ruling classes have little left but their mostly conspicuous lies and sheer force, then it follows that while those who stand for equality and freedom have a formidable, ruthless, enemy; we also have a chance, yet again, to supersede capital—for freedom and equality—if we do more than construct reason, but connect reason to passion, passion to ethics, ethics to organization, and organization to action. We make the theoretical fight–write–because we have seen what defeats men with guns: revolutionary ideas.

As above, it is possible that struggle will emanate from schools where, presumably, ideas still have a role (recognizing the considerable, and armed, potential of returned veterans whose grasp of empire is profound and practical, as with undocumented immigrants).

We wrote in Counterpunch that schools are the integrative organizing points of North American life–centers of power struggles for knowledge, capital, labor, and freedom (Gibson & Ross, 2008). That is our strategic view.

Tactically, there are key choke points in schools, opposition to imperialist regulated curricula, rejecting high stakes exams with boycotts, fighting salary cuts, tuition hikes, etc., and fighting the campus military invasion, as the military and the struggle for what is true are incompatible. We have already witnessed two of the larger school worker locals in the U.S., the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Chicago Teachers Union, pick up the test boycott tactic, in admittedly limited ways, but a boycott nonetheless. In San Diego, a coalition of parents, students, and teachers has had remarkable success in limiting enrollment in high school ROTC programs, through, above all else, sheer perseverance, leafleting regularly at the schools. The March 4, 2010 ant-tuition increase movement, which openly connected school, capitalism, imperialism and war, was heartening.

Since 2008, we participated in some of the largest teach-ins in the U.S.—the Rouge Forum Conferences (in Louisville, Ypsilanti, Williams Bay, Chicago, Oxford, OH, Detroit, Denver) and the San Diego San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice teach-in. Combined those totaled over a thousand; good in substance, far short in form. Nevertheless, the March 4th movement included many of our Rouge Forum members—and ideas.

Around the world, students and school workers in Greece and France started what became general strikes. In the U.S., the education work force has been more malleable. The key terms that might describe the majority of the professorate and k-12 U.S. educators would be: racism, ignorance, cowardice, and opportunism–the latter a bribe from the empire described by Lenin as:

The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc., makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time a fairly considerable minority of them, and win them to the side of the bourgeoisie of a given industry or given nation against all the others. The intensification of antagonisms between imperialist nations for the division of the world increases this striving. And so there is created that bond between imperialism and opportunism, which revealed itself first and most clearly in England, owing to the fact that certain features of imperialist development were observable there much earlier than in other countries… (Lenin, 1963/1917)

The schools, which were always capital’s schools, became, more than ever, missions for capitalism and educators its missionaries. What changes that?

Social conditions may change. Layoffs, wage cuts, pension elimination, escalating class size; all add up. We worry they will add up piece-meal, leading to what we have already seen: education workers continuing with the bad habits of everyday schooling and, at the same time, pointing at others (the media specialist, the counselors, support staff, like bus drivers or food workers, etc.) to be cut loose first—or the working class taxed more to pay for the mis-education of its children.

We expect union leaders, who reject the reason most people believe they join unions, that is contradictory interests of workers and employers, to lead a series of concessions—in the national interest (meaning their own opportunist interest). Concessions will be sold as “the best that can be done in hard times.” For example, the NEA partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers to implement reforms outlined in Tough Choices for Tough Times, a report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (Gewertz , 2009). Tough-Tough was authored by such educational experts as the director of the militarized Lockheed-Martin, and university presidents whose incomes are frequently dependent on grants from the military, earmarked for “research.” Tough-Tough calls for national curriculum standards as a means of recapturing the witless patriotism necessary to get people to work, and eagerly fight and die, for what is abundantly easy to see are the interests of their own rulers.

Concession bargaining is in full swing. The union leadership, and the very structure of unions—dividing people as much or more than uniting them—will serve as yet another layer of enemies to be combated. The union bosses amount to a benign loyal opposition who seek to save the rules of the system, for their own narrow desires. They reify the division of labor at the heart of capitalist society, selling the pacified work of their members in exchange for forced dues collection—that is precisely the historical deal of “collective bargaining,” and given all the concessions really all that is left of it.

No concessions. None. Not one step back. Free k-university education. Free health care for everyone. Tax the rich. Tax inherited, landed, and corporate wealth. A thirty-hour week with no cut in pay. No foreclosures. Bailout back mortgages with payments right to the buyers. Or else.

One strike after the next. Mutinies in the military.

To abandon both the theory and practice of revolutionis to deny science (evolutionary leaps), philosophy (dialectics into materialism), history (revolution on revolution) and passion itself—a cornerstone of any movement for change.

We believe people will fight back. They will have to fight back to live. Will sense be made of resistance? Will protestors demand a shorter work week, with no cut in pay, the end of foreclosures and evictions, free health care for all, an end to education for domination, or will people, in the midst of a confusing social collapse, demand more troops on the streets as we see in the border cities of Mexico, strangling in the grips of drug gangs?

First resistance, as with March 4th movement, may come from students who have had contact with a few thinking teachers. As hope (a vital function of school, real or false) evaporates, students may rise. They will need considerable support, and the notion that their struggle is a workers’ struggle as well. France 1968 is evidence enough.

If the happier possibility of a mass resistance is to break out, we hope it combines the true passion of the ethics and call for equality and freedom we outlined with the analytical tools of political economy and the study of things and people as they change: dialectical materialism. People can become whole, joyous, and free within a resistance movement that is making sense of the crux of current conditions and that seeks to change the world.

Everything is at hand for a full rearrangement of the social relations of daily life. Let us get to the real task connecting reason to power, to ethics, to passion, to organization and action.



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