NEA's National Phone Call and the Counterfeit Leadership of April 4th

Rich Gibson March 31 2011


I just got off a thirty minute national call with NEA boss Dennis Van Roekel (about $450,000 a year) and 3000+ other NEA members. I assume I was on the call because I am a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly.


The crux of the call was to win NEA members to "collective action to create a movement for the America we want," by joining with the "United Labor Table" (tops from the AFL-CIO and the equally failing Change to Win Coalition) to launch a lobbying effort, "We are one!" on April 4th and beyond.

This would be an effort to lobby in regard to NCLB and to "protect the voice of the middle class," as well as defending collective bargaining (dues collection).

Van Roekel indicated he and NEA are following in the footsteps of Dr Martin Luther King who was assassinated on April 4th in Memphis. He urged "back home" lobby efforts, "you can become a lobbyist."

Van Roekel closed by saying that the main form of collective action people could begin, now, would be to go to an NEA web site which is, I think,

Van Roekel fielded a few questions. Staged or not? I don't know. NEA really doesn't need to do that, but sometimes they do.

Van Roekel targeted Republicans and named the now-infamous Koch brothers as Nemeses.

My question did not get through the screening process, perhaps because of time, or not.

My question: "Dennis, the education agenda is a war agenda. It is a class war and empire's war agenda. That's our social context and now we see war to the third power. Are you willing to follow the real path Dr King took before he was killed and speak out against imperialist warfare--for which workers always get the bill? Are you willing to follow Dr King, who was backing a workers' strike when he was killed, and call for a national school workers' strike, somewhat like the Michigan Education Association is voting on right now?"

Interestingly, a closing poll showed only 77 percent of the callers planned to back Van Roekel's call for "collective action" at a web site.

I think I got down the crux of the call pretty well but assume others will offer corrections or different interpretations.

in 1967, King said this, ""For the last 12 years we have been a reform movement...(but) after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution. We must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. We are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society."

King never, to my knowledge, abandoned his view of non-violence, not as a dogma, but a tactic. His sense of revolution was surely long, long term. His notion of asking radical questions about the whole society is exactly the point now.

Clearly there is a national move afoot to surround, derail, and finally demolish a movement that could, in fact, take direct action to upend what is really capitalist schooling, to forge real solidarity across the barriers of US unionism, indeed to win and sustain those wins with mass, class-conscious, activity to control work places and communities. .

Everywhere, children of the poor kill each other on behalf of the rich in their homelands. The US government, historically teetering on the balance between capitalism and democracy, is now little more than an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich. Capitalism has defeated any appearances of democracy at every turn.

Everything is in place that would indicate the possibility of a full rearrangement of social relations:

*a break down of competence, morals and ethics at the top,

*growing dissension in the ruling classes despite their ability to unite in class war,

*failing foreign wars led by inept generals and corrupt corporations,

*incompetence and transparent degeneracy in government and the corporate world,

*an obvious all out assault on the dispossessed from every angle, (employment, wages, benefits, pensions, social service net, mass incarceration, deportations, etc.),

*a turn to sheer force whenever even mild resistance appears,

*flat-footed deception ("this is not a war and it has no cost"),

*accelerators of social change multiply (Wisconsin, the Middle East, etc.),

*an attack on reason itself as irrationalism infects even the military,

*real hope vanishes while false hope remains powerful,

*inability or unwillingness of elites to use carrots, mild reforms, to divert struggle.

There is resistance as people must resist in order to live. But nobody ever voted the rich out of their money nor their military. Ideas, however, are powerful, can turn over class relations and turn military guns around.

At issue: will people make sense of why they must resist (class war, imperialist war) and seek a fundamental transformation of the way things are? Will people withdraw the "mandate from heaven," that is today the fetish of "democracy," and aim at the real target: to engage what is clearly class war?

Or will people merely be defeated for the time being, be crushed?

Good luck to our side