For REAL Action on and Before March 4!
Our actions in California have been heartening and exemplary. The rest of the country may follow. I hope it does.
However, it appears to me that the March 4 action can become a way of circumscribing what has already taken place, containing it, and diverting or delaying direct action into hopeless electoral channels---which anyone familiar with the Quisling AFL-CIO and NEA would predict.
Our project has to be pedagogical and practical. What do we want people to learn, how do we want people to come to learn it, and what shall we do?
The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of endless war and booming inequality met by the potential of mass, activist, class conscious resistance, connecting reason to real power.
What is at hand is an international war of the rich on the poor, everywhere. The children of the poor are sent to fight and kill other children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands, while working people in the nation are forced to pay for the wars.
We need to determine how to overcome the system of capital, retain what is useful about it (science, etc), and abolish what is not (racism, nationalism, sexism, etc.) Without that stated as a north star, we are without direction and are likely to recreate our own oppression in only slightly new ways, or, worse, contribute to the emergence of fascism as a mass, popular, movement.
While we must discuss and fashion reason, we are also in the midst of a very serious fight.
The other side, the united ruling classes of the US (note the bipartisan bankster bailout, the bipartisan auto takeover, the bipartisan wars, the bipartisan NCLB and Race to the Top projects, etc), is prepared to use every weapon they have to divide and demolish those who resist--courts to cops to their media to union bosses to the military and all in between.
We must recognize that they are willing to kill millions of people. More, they are desperate, running short on troops, money, and public trust. Desperate ruling classes have a history of bizarre and vicious behavior.
I am opposed to any action that would lend credence to what is clearly their government, not ours--an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich where they iron our their differences, then allow us to choose which way we want to be oppressed best.
Electoral work, from another angle, encourages people to believe that others, people with obviously opposing interests, ie, politicians, are going to solve our problems or save us when it is only our ability to act collectively, decisively, that is going to save us. Voting inside capital's bogus democracy is more than a little like going to church.
We have already seen the NEA in California spend millions of dollars to push a tax scheme which would have hit poor and working people hardest. That truly stupid and dishonest effort failed. Good.
The bad thing is that by treating other workers like enemies, the maneuver convinced many workers that educators, via their union, are enemies. That has to change.
It won't by overturning Prop 13. That will not happen. If it did, though, the next step would be even more vicious taxation on working people. You can bet it won't result in taxing the rich, not until they are forced by mass action to deliver funds as they did, for example, in Detroit, in the late summer of 1967.
CFA here dithered while CSU profs took a 9% + pay cut and work loads boomed. CTA's August newspaper is a lengthy tome on how educators can adjust to these attacks, not fight them. But we witnessed NEA and AFT pour tens of millions of dollars and untold volunteer hours into the election of the demagogue, Obama, who did what he told them he would do at the outset: expand wars and attack education.
Why did the unions do that, instead of organizing for the one thing any union always needs: the ability to strike? Because union bosses know it keeps members busy, distracted, and they can keep that shell game going forever. The dues just pour on in--and Dennis Van Roekel of NEA can continue to collect his $450,000-plus salary and live on his expense account.
In the words of a former top NEA political action organizer, "If voting mattered, they wouldn't let us do it."
I recently left Detroit where the corrupt American Federation of Teachers bargained what I think is the worst teacher contract in US history which is saying a lot (set aside pre-collective bargaining days and the McCarthy era).
AFT, in alliance with the Broad Foundation, the Democrat Mayor, the Democrat Governor, the Press, the Courts, and the Cops, declared a monstrous sellout a great advance in educational reform.
The atrocious package includes a $500 per month pay cut, $30 million in health care cuts, merit pay, teachers evaluating teachers for disciplinary purposes and worse. It pretends school reform is possible absent social reform, a joint Obama/AFT/NEA lie. The agreement that AFT loves combines every bad measure slammed into teacher contracts around the US into one package, then adds more.
The attack on education, and reason itself, is international, color-coded and multi-pronged.
March 4th needs to be a mass strike, not a platform for union bosses and politicos to lie to people about voting away what is, at base, a Master/Slave relationship. The Masters have never adopted the ethics of the slaves.
March 4 and the weeks before it need to be full of direct action forms of civil strife, the more and the more severe the better, from building seizures, to pickets, to on campus demonstrations violating those preposterous "free speech," zones, to disrupting the habits of daily life as much as possible. We can conduct teach-ins and mass meetings about why things are as they are in the midst of struggle.
The more civil strife there is, the more our enemies are going to have to rethink and, maybe, retreat. The more genteel and civil we are to them, the more they will see us as useful fools helping them hold back what could be the flood.
I see nothing wrong with going to union meetings and pressing for action (best, a strike) on March 4th, but nobody should expect any union with a contract to do it.
Nor should anyone invite the top labor bosses into leadership. We know where they stand--on the other side. Not a single top labor boss in the US believes workers and employers have, in the main, contradictory interests---and they have done all they can to wreck movements that organized otherwise--including using violence themselves and helping cops (Detroit Newspaper Strike, Dodge Main, SEIU at Labor Notes, etc, etc).
What do we want from honest union leaders and union employees? We want the email list or, if that's impossible (and it usually isn't) we want the union to open an un-moderated discussion site online. There, we can create our own email list. We want money, our dues back to pay for the media we need, to pay for the lawyers we will probably need, to provide bail, etc. We want Daniel Ellsberg's, insiders feeding us good information on the estimates and plans of the union bosses, the bigger bosses, their tactics as well. But we do not want your union hacks on the megaphones.
Closed schools are better than open schools when the schools are closed by civil strife and matched by some form of freedom schooling. Schooling is not going to be democratic until an entirely different society is fashioned. That is a long way away.
While a state wide demonstration, say, in Sacramento, might be great at some point, or even better a national one in DC against the wars and the cuts, in the interim we need to remember that our real power which we can sustain comes from our ability to develop strategies and tactics, on our own, identifying key choke points in communities and taking action to control them. San Diego, for example, has a very narrow road to the airport. Tourism is important.
We do not need to be where we are expected to be.
And we do not want court convictions either.
The nearest and most vulnerable of workers' enemies are, among others, union hacks and their offices. I am saddened that no one has, as yet, stormed the UAW's Solidarity House, thrown the UAW goons in the Detroit River, taken the membership lists our whatever else might be of use, or held the building members paid for as long as possible.
I look forward to the day when rank and file members and their friends rush the podiums of union meetings, heave nicely clothed officers off the platforms, and hold real meetings where actual decisions about when and how to seize control of workplaces are made.
The education agenda is a class war agenda. The fight is brewing. Up the rebels!