Monday, November 01, 2010

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- Obama’s War on Public Education-Defend the Teachers Unions!-For Free Quality Integrated Education for All!

Markin comment:

This timely article goes very well with today's entry from the archives of Women and Revolution on Soviet Educational Policy.
Workers Vanguard No. 967
22 October 2010

Defend the Teachers Unions!
Obama’s War on Public Education
For Free Quality Integrated Education for All!
(Young Spartacus pages)

Under Democratic president Barack Obama’s administration, “school reform” amounts to a massive assault on public education carried out through brass-knuckle attacks on teachers unions. Revamped federal funding rules turn the screws on schools described as failing, shuttering classrooms in ghettos and barrios nationwide, and give a green light for a proliferation of privately run charter schools. From Los Angeles and Chicago to New York City and Washington, D.C., Obama & Co. have made the Bush gang’s policies look like child’s play.

For decades, the arrogant U.S. imperialist rulers have starved education of funding. With fewer and fewer industrial jobs, America’s racist capitalist rulers see little value in paying union wages to educate working-class, black and immigrant youth. The high school graduation rate in the U.S. is below 70 percent; in urban centers including Los Angeles, it falls below 50 percent. U.S. students rank 35th internationally in math, between Azerbaijan and Croatia, and 29th in science, between Latvia and Lithuania—countries many Americans cannot identify on a map. The ruling class cynically blames the teachers unions for this woeful state of affairs as it guns for the wage gains, benefits and job protections that come with a union job.

The Race to the Top program, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s “reform,” has been described as No Child Left Behind part two, after the plan pushed by late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush. Obama’s scheme pitted cash-strapped state school systems against each other in a competition for $4.35 billion in funding—almost 10 percent of the federal budget for education. When the states’ applications were judged, the most weight was given to commitments to eliminate teacher seniority and tenure. Aiming to have “no child left untested,” rewards were also based on states’ plans to track student test scores. Among other things, this is a setup for victimizing individual teachers whose classes don’t measure up well, particularly threatening those in the poorest school districts.

The Education Department has classified as many as 5,000 schools as failing. One reform that might actually improve them—adequate funding—is not what the administration has in mind. “We can’t spend our way out of it,” Obama told the Today show (27 September), which is rather piquant coming from a man who saw through the $700 billion bank bailout. In order for school districts to qualify for funding under Obama’s School Turnaround program, they have to do one of the following to “failing” schools: close them; have a charter take them over; fire the principal and entire staff and rehire no more than half; or fire the principal, lengthen the school day and implement other onerous changes. This all spells a direct attack on the teachers unions, as Obama made clear in March when he endorsed the firing of the entire staff at Rhode Island’s Central Falls High School (see “Labor: Fight Union Busting Attack on Rhode Island Teachers!” WV No. 954, 12 March).

The government’s campaign to cripple the teachers unions is part of a broad attack on public employees. With the erosion of industry and the acquiescence of the pro-capitalist labor tops to the proliferation of non-union shops, public employees now, for the first time, make up the majority of union members in the U.S. (Many of these are cops who, as the hired guns of the capitalists, should have no place in the unions.) The two national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), represent about a quarter of all union members nationally, with 4.6 million members.

Like capitalist governments in Europe and elsewhere, American federal, state and local governments, under both Democrats and Republicans, have seized on the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression to slash payrolls and extract massive concessions—from working hours to pensions. Some 60,000 school employees were laid off last year, and many more have already lost their jobs this school year as the bourgeoisie further cuts spending for education. Thirty-eight of the 100 largest school districts have instituted wage freezes and another ten have cut wages. The ruling class sees teachers unions as potential obstacles to slashing public education budgets. A big reason it has been able to push through its attacks on education and other services is the decades-long decline in labor struggle, overseen by a miserable trade-union “leadership” that serves as the bourgeoisie’s lieutenants inside the labor movement.

The working class, black people and other minorities have a vital interest in defending public workers unions and fighting against the attacks on social services, including the bourgeoisie’s attempt to turn back the clock on universal, integrated, secular public education. We oppose charter schools because they are an attack on the democratic right to public education and provide an opening for religious groups to get government funds to run schools, and contribute as well to furthering school segregation. The drive to expand charter schools underlines the link between racial oppression, union-busting and the promotion of religious obscurantism.

Like the fight for decent health care, the battle for quality education, including bilingual instruction, for the working class and the black and Latino poor requires hard struggle against the capitalist class, a tiny handful of people whose obscene wealth is gained from exploiting labor and whose rule is reinforced by racial and other forms of social oppression. The money and resources exist for massive construction of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure gutted by the profit-bloated capitalists. To seize that wealth requires breaking the power of the bourgeoisie through socialist revolution.

Education U.S.A.— Separate and Unequal

Education in capitalist America is class- and race-biased from top to bottom. From public education’s earliest days in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, when class bells and the structure of the school day were used to facilitate the transition from the family farm into the factory, education has been crafted to meet the needs of the capitalist class. Ruling-class offspring are guaranteed places at expensive private schools and universities. In addition, the bourgeoisie needs a layer of educated technicians, professionals, managers and ideologues. The last serious effort to promote science education in this country was after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik I satellite in 1957. Fear of a Soviet lead in military technology led President Eisenhower to demand a billion-dollar program to improve science education in American schools and to sign the National Defense Education Act in 1958.

A certain level of education is also necessary for industrial labor. During World War II, when there was a labor shortage and the bourgeoisie needed workers for war industries, California shipyard owners recruited untrained and often semiliterate Southerners, black as well as white, who learned to read and write, and often became skilled apprentices in little more than three months. During the war, the G.E.D. program was initiated to prepare returning servicemen who lacked a high school diploma to take jobs. It was expanded in 1963 for the general population.

While black workers have been a key component of the workforce in industry, they have also typically been the “last hired and first fired.” And after the bosses took the wrecking ball to steel mills and auto plants in the North and Midwest, the government saw little need for the overhead expense of educating those whose labor power was no longer needed. As a result, the children of black workers in particular have been treated more and more as an expendable population. The financial titans’ interest in “education reform” has nothing to do with the welfare of the poor, black and working-class kids penned up in decrepit, underfunded schools. For these kids, it’s all about pushing union-free schools where longer days and a longer academic year can be required to cultivate obedient wage slaves (if needed) and foot soldiers for the American empire.

In capitalist America, which was founded on black slavery, the black population forms a specially oppressed caste stigmatized because of skin color. Separate never has been and never can be equal. Whether it is run by Barack Obama or anyone else, the capitalist system is racist to its core—from segregated housing and schools to unemployment, cop terror and mass incarceration in the name of the “war on drugs.” While closing schools and hospitals, the capitalist rulers have seen fit to pay for the “overhead expense” of prison construction, on a massive scale. Poor black youth are offered the “choice” of facing death on the streets, including at the hands of the racist cops, enrolling in U.S. imperialism’s wars and occupations, expecting time in jail, or, for some, a minimum-wage job.

Minority students in segregated schools across America confront conditions more suitable for a police state than for a place of study: metal detectors, video cameras, strict hall and truancy monitoring by security guards, drug testing, locker searches. “Zero tolerance” policies have led to tens of thousands of arrests for such “crimes” as pushing, tardiness and using spitballs. Cities hire school security out of local police forces, which carry out murderous racist terror on the streets. The nearly 5,000 “School Safety Agents” and 200 armed police on duty in New York City public schools constitute the tenth-largest police force in the country. This is an “education” system that essentially treats minority youth as future criminals. The schools serve to reinforce the isolation of black youth in a society where 28 percent of black men are destined to spend time behind bars.

In his 2005 book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, Jonathan Kozol, an award-winning author and former Boston public school teacher, cites a study by Harvard professor Gary Orfield that powerfully documents the growing segregation of public education. Five decades after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling that overturned formal legal segregation of public schools, Northern schools are more segregated than those in the Deep South. More than two million black and Latino students attend what Kozol calls “apartheid schools,” in which 99 to 100 percent of students are non-white. During the 1990s, the proportion of black students who attended majority white schools decreased to a level lower than in any year since 1968. The Supreme Court’s 2007 decision throwing out school desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville gave official sanction to those seeking to overturn some 1,000 remaining integration plans across the country.

Bilingual education has also been under steady attack. In California in 1998, racist Proposition 227 required replacing bilingual programs with sink-or-swim “English immersion” classes. As we wrote in “Down With ‘English Only’ Racism!” (WV No. 688, 10 April 1998): “Those with the ability to become bilingual on their own due to privileged circumstances—e.g., those with access to private tutoring, or who come from educated households—are deemed to be an asset to the country. The rest, often from impoverished, rural families where no one is literate in any language, are to be used as superexploited, terrorized and preferably illiterate unskilled labor.”

Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

It has taken tumultuous, even revolutionary struggle to extend the right to education to black people in America. It took a bloody Civil War to uproot the slave system, under which teaching slaves to read was a crime. Most of the first Southern free public schools were established following the Civil War during Radical Reconstruction, the turbulent decade of Southern interracial bourgeois democracy carried out by the freedmen and their white allies and protected by Union Army troops, many of whom were formerly enslaved. A literacy rate that was around 5 percent for black people in the 1860s rose to 40 percent in 1890. As symbols of measures toward black equality, schools were often targets of Ku Klux Klan terror.

With the Compromise of 1877 and the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the South, black people were left at the mercy of former slaveowners, now backed by Northern capital, and their murderous nightriders. Funding for black education was slashed and Jim Crow segregation eventually became the law in the South, leaving its imprint in the North as well. Nonetheless, black teachers continued to struggle against enormous hardship to operate schools for black children. In the segregated Northern ghettos that emerged following the Great Migration of black Americans to industrial centers in the early 20th century, separate and unequal schools for blacks became facts of life linked to segregation in housing.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s took up the fight against segregated and inferior schools, contributing to the end of de jure segregation in the South. But under the leadership of liberals like Martin Luther King, who looked to the capitalist Democratic Party, the courts and the government, that movement could not end the de facto segregation of black people, North and South, which is rooted in the capitalist system.

Starting in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown decision, massive “white flight” to private and suburban schools reinforced segregation. A crucial turning point came in the mid 1970s, when school busing was ordered in Boston—a minimal attempt to integrate its public schools. The busing plan touched off a virulent racist reaction as mobs stoned school buses carrying black kids. The court-ordered plan was limited to neighborhoods like South Boston, one of the poorest white areas in the U.S. outside of Appalachia, and the black Roxbury ghetto. Liberal Massachusetts Congressmen, for their part, made sure that nobody was bused out to the relatively privileged suburban schools, further fueling the racist frenzy. The Spartacist League called to defend the busing plan and extend it to the suburbs. We agitated for the integrated labor movement—meatpackers, bus drivers, teachers and others—to organize labor/black defense of the bused black schoolchildren.

In Boston, the liberals caved in to the racist mobs, ushering in decades of attacks on school desegregation nationwide. Even tokenistic affirmative action programs in higher education have been drastically curtailed, to the point that they barely exist outside of some elite universities. Today’s education reformers have adopted the racist code word “school choice,” which, in the period of the civil rights movement, meant allowing white students to attend all-white public schools and creating all-white private academies, aided by state grants to students’ families. Foreshadowing the policies pursued by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was the school voucher system, which also served to perpetuate racist discrimination.

A defining trait of the race and class inequality woven into the fiber of the U.S. public school system is the role of local taxes in education funding. The wealth or poverty of a particular school district essentially determines the quality of its schools. Predominantly white suburban schools often spend twice what urban school districts do and three times what poorer rural areas spend. And when they find government funding insufficient, donors in wealthier areas shell out the cash for reading specialists, music and arts, science labs and computers as well as the extracurricular field trips and activities that make for a quality learning environment.

Decades ago, the Spartacus Youth League, forerunner to today’s Spartacus Youth Clubs, explained:

“As socialists, we oppose all class-biased and racially discriminatory privileges in educational opportunity. Thus, we are opposed to educational funding based on local property taxes. Instead, we call for all public schools to be funded at the national level. In addition, all social services—from welfare to health care—should be federally funded.”

—“Public Education: Separate and Unequal,” Young Spartacus No. 52, March 1977

The Spartacist League/SYCs fight to extend the right to education to the university level, demanding open admissions, no tuition, a state-paid living stipend for students and the nationalization of private universities.

The fight for equality in education must also include a struggle against the wretched condition in the ghettos and barrios and in impoverished rural areas as well. How can you be expected to study when you’re homeless or hungry, when your families live in fear of immigration raids or are stuck in overcrowded, rat-infested projects?

While fighting against discrimination and segregation in schools and housing, we understand that racial oppression cannot be rooted out short of the revolutionary overturn of the capitalist system. Like winning jobs for all, eradicating race and class bias in education, so that everyone can have access to the quality education that the children of the bourgeoisie get, requires the working class taking power. The road to black liberation and the emancipation of all the oppressed lies in the fight for an egalitarian socialist society, where production is organized to serve human need, not the capitalists’ bottom line.

Laissez-Faire Schools Disaster

Some of America’s biggest billionaires and venture capitalists have joined with the bourgeois press and Democratic Party hacks in a propaganda offensive aimed at pushing through anti-union school “reform.” The moneybags include hedge-fund managers tied to Joe Williams, whose political action committee Democrats for Education Reform was set up to push charter schools, as well as the foundations of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, union-busting Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Eli Broad, who got his billions in housing, insurance and savings rackets.

For these capitalist profiteers, the crux of education reform is the application of “free market” principles. This scheme dates back to the 1950s and right-wing economist and longtime University of Chicago professor Milton Friedman. Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” gained notoriety by serving as economic advisers to the CIA-backed Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which overthrew the popular-front government of Salvador Allende in 1973 and massacred 30,000 workers, peasants and leftists, and imprisoned and tortured thousands more. Once he retired from the University of Chicago, Friedman wrote Free to Choose, a playbook for market-based reform, including privatized schooling, and became an adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

Today’s “Chicago Boys”—Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and their pals—share Friedman’s ideological commitment to “free market” education, embracing privatization, tying funding to test scores and ending union protections like tenure for teachers. An early implementer of this union-busting program was Diane Ravitch, an influential historian and education policy wonk who served in the Bush Senior and Clinton administrations. Ravitch has since had second thoughts. From the standpoint of wanting to further America’s national interests, Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) laments how the laissez-faire market approach of what she calls “the billionaire boys’ club” has gutted government-run education.

As Ravitch documents, turning out higher test scores has become the top priority for financially shaky schools, taking over the school day and spilling over into weekend classes and extra tutoring. Jonathan Kozol aptly describes how “inner-city kids are being trained to give prescripted answers and to acquiesce in their subordinate position in society” (Huffington Post, 10 September 2007). Another result is the large-scale falsification of test scores.

The drive to improve test scores or face the ax also puts pressure on schools to get rid of their lowest-scoring students. This process has been expedited by the closing of large “failing” schools and the opening of small facilities in their place, with the lowest-scoring students shunted off to resource-starved and decrepit schools apart from better-scoring students. What we said about Bush Senior’s education reforms is as much the point today: “Just test rich and poor ‘equally,’ and when the poor flunk, well then, that supposedly proves the ruling class shouldn’t waste its money on the swelling ranks of the underclass” (“Education U.S.A.—Separate and Unequal,” WV No. 544, 7 February 1992).

The Charter School Onslaught

The keystone of the current “reform” package is the mushrooming of charter schools. While part of local school systems, charters are privately owned and operated outfits that take money away from existing public schools and are exempt from Department of Education regulations, as well as from any union contract carried over from the school systems. Some are explicitly operated as money-making ventures, and some are religion-based schools in everything but name.

Charter schools increase racial segregation and class inequality in education and also serve as a tool to smash unions. As a rule, charter schools are opened in the poorest and most segregated parts of cities, often on public school grounds. The better-off white suburban schools remain untouched. Usually, the new schools are even more segregated than the ones they replace. According to a February 2010 study by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, nearly three out of four black charter school students attend “intensely segregated” schools where 90 percent or more of the students are minorities. This is two times higher than the rate at regular public schools.

The proliferation of charter schools has certainly done nothing to integrate schools in Chicago, long known as “Segregation City.” Before landing in Washington, Arne Duncan ran the Chicago public school system from 2001 to 2008. By his own account, he oversaw the closing of some 60 schools, primarily in black and Latino neighborhoods, and the expansion of charter and military schools.

It says a lot that the Obama administration has taken the dilapidated and segregated Chicago system as a national model. Only about half of its students graduate high school; the rate is even lower for black male students. In a city that is nearly 40 percent white, white students make up just 8 percent of public school students, and a third of the public schools have not even one single white student enrolled. In 2009, the capitalist courts ended the 1980 consent decree that provided whatever shreds of integration existed in Chicago public schools, primarily in the magnet and selective schools. The decree imposed by the federal government has now been deemed unnecessary because the “vestiges of discrimination” have been eliminated “to the extent practicable”!

From 2004, when Duncan brought out his Renaissance 2010 education blueprint, to the present, over 80 Chicago public schools, largely in minority neighborhoods, have been shut down and replaced with smaller schools—about two-thirds of them charter schools. Charters now comprise 10 percent of the city school system, and almost all are non-union. The system’s current “CEO” (the actual title), ex-cop and former Chicago Transit Authority president Ron Huberman, has continued Duncan’s “turnaround schools” plan, under which all teachers and staff at “low-performing” schools are fired and replaced by much younger, less experienced teachers who receive far lower wages. Across the country, idealistic young college graduates, mainly white, are being recruited and given a pro forma training course for exactly this purpose by Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which are supported by the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations. Many new hires burn out quickly—in Chicago it’s common that they don’t even get through their first school year.

Many black and Latino parents turn to charter schools hoping that they provide an alternative to the decaying inner-city public schools. Schools like Harlem Success Academy are touted as miracle stories, where the black-white “achievement gap” is supposed to be a thing of the past and “behavior problems” are rooted out (including through its “kindergarten boot camp”!). In order to raise standardized test scores, Harlem Success spends hundreds of thousands every year to recruit the students it wants while pressuring those who score low to transfer elsewhere. It offers no teachers of English as a Second Language and no classes for students with disabilities. Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Harlem Success, coldly told one teacher, “The school is not a social service agency” (New York magazine, 25 April).

Belying the hype over such “successful” charters lies a stark fact: charter schools do not even measure up to public schools. According to a 2009 Stanford University study, 46 percent of charter schools perform comparably to public schools—and 37 percent perform significantly worse. Examples of financial skimming and haywire accounting abound. Of the 64 schools in Los Angeles that have had their charters revoked, almost all were accused of financial or administrative mismanagement.

Charter schools represent a major erosion of the separation of church and state supposedly enshrined in the Constitution. A case in point is Chicago, where the parochial school system is already the largest in the world and has long functioned as an escape from integration for white families. Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Chicago Catholic Schools, recently announced that a number of their schools may be converted into charters. In Washington, D.C., seven low-performing Catholic schools became charters on archdiocese property, which, like all church property, is exempt from taxation. We oppose government funding for any religious institution, including schools, and fight as well against any encroachment of religious teaching into the public schools, such as the attempt to promote “intelligent design” at the expense of teaching the fact of evolution.

In a chilling sign of how the administration’s “reform” schemes will further depress the quality of education, earlier this year Education Secretary Arne Duncan ghoulishly declared that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”! The racist rulers viewed the unfolding disaster of Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to “change the demographics” of New Orleans—i.e., get rid of impoverished blacks. In addition to terrorizing the black population, boarding up public housing and axing social services, this meant gutting public education. One of black Democratic mayor Ray Nagin’s first acts after the floodwaters drained was to fire all 8,000 unionized schoolteachers in an all-out drive to replace public schools with charters. Two-thirds of the city’s children are now enrolled in charter schools.

Obscenely, the Brookings Institution think tank has declared that Haiti should follow the New Orleans model, which, it opines, shows how “a fundamentally different education system can be built in the wake of a disaster.” Nothing is being rebuilt as the desperately impoverished Haitian masses continue to groan under imperialist subjugation, carried out through the UN occupation force supplemented by U.S. National Guardsmen.

Before the earthquake, the vast majority of schools in Haiti were private, and more than half of school-age children did not attend school. Next door in the Dominican Republic, free public elementary education is well-established in the cities, although less so in the rural areas. The contrasting results are stark: the literacy rate in the Dominican Republic is 85 percent; in Haiti it’s 53 percent. Even so, the situation in the neocolonial Dominican Republic pales in comparison to that in Cuba, a bureaucratically deformed workers state. Since the overthrow of capitalist rule in 1960-61, Cuba has achieved one of the highest literacy rates in the world—higher than the U.S.—as well as the highest doctor-patient ratio.

The War on Teachers Unions

America’s capitalist rulers and their media mouthpieces are seeking to manipulate justified anger over the state of public education to bolster their attacks on overworked and underpaid teachers and their unions. Obama & Co. seek to reverse gains for teachers, whose unions grew substantially through a series of labor struggles in the 1950s and ’60s. Before that, they had little protection against meager salaries, political favoritism, domineering principals and sex discrimination against a mostly female workforce.

In mid August, the Los Angeles Times, which for over a century has specialized in bashing unions, ran a series of attack pieces on the United Teachers of Los Angeles. The paper published a database rating some 6,000 elementary school teachers by the test scores of their students, promoting this as a tool for firing teachers—an approach endorsed by both Arne Duncan and Democratic California Education Secretary Bonnie Reiss. This witchhunt has since been implicated in the suicide of Rigoberto Ruelas, a dedicated teacher from an impoverished district in South Los Angeles where students scored lower on tests than those in more affluent neighborhoods.

In many public schools, if students get any education at all, it is testament to the dedication of poorly paid teachers who struggle against cutbacks, decaying facilities and increased administration meddling. With the government refusing to shell out for the most basic classroom materials, some teachers spend thousands of dollars of their own money on school supplies.

There is plenty of anger among the membership of the teachers unions over the attacks on their wages and job protections, and over the state of public education. In California, the Oakland Education Association went out on April 29 for a one-day strike against wage freezes, although its members continue to work without a contract. On October 14, Baltimore teachers voted down a contract that would have effectively gutted seniority. But the unions are saddled with a leadership that acts as labor statesmen for the capitalist government, willingly offering up greater concessions from their members in the name of “sacrificing for the kids.”

The union tops’ class collaborationism is all the more blatant with the Democratic Party, which they falsely promote as the friend of labor and the oppressed, running things. In the last 30 years, the teachers unions have shelled out nearly $57.4 million to bourgeois politicians in federal elections alone, 95 percent of that to Democrats. Ten percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 were teachers union members. Under Obama, the Democratic Party has put itself in the front lines of the anti-teacher offensive. Republican Congressman John Kline pointed out (New York Times, 1 September) that many of Obama and Duncan’s ideas have been pushed by Republicans for years. The union tops’ support for the Democrats makes their realization possible. As the Times reported, Kline told Duncan, “Arne, only you can do that.... You’re the secretary of education for a Democratic president.”

AFT president Randi Weingarten, formerly the head of NYC’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT), exemplifies the role the labor bureaucracy plays as the bosses’ cops inside the unions. Weingarten’s mentor, longtime AFT head Albert Shanker, was a raving anti-Communist who acted as one of U.S. imperialism’s main labor agents in its drive to smash militant unions and suppress left-wing parties around the world during the anti-Soviet Cold War. Weingarten backs charter schools and various types of “performance pay,” in line with Obama’s calls for “more accountability” from teachers. No wonder that Duncan told the New York Times Magazine (19 September), “I’m a big fan of Randi’s.” This, to say the least, is not the opinion of AFT members who booed and heckled her at a May union meeting in Detroit. Weingarten’s successor at the UFT, Michael Mulgrew, has played his part by agreeing to link teachers’ evaluations to standardized test scores and to make it easier to fire teachers whom administrators deem “incompetent.”

We Need a Workers Party!

In our articles denouncing Obama’s vaunted health care package—a gift to the bankers and insurance companies—we made the point that if the labor movement fought for free, universal, quality health care, it would have broad support among the population, helping to revitalize the trade unions in this country. Similarly, if the teachers unions waged some class struggle in support of free, quality education for all, they would find allies in millions of working-class, black and Latino families. When teachers unions have gone on strike in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Oakland, they have won support in the ghettos and barrios. To mobilize the unions in such struggle requires fighting against the class collaborationism of the labor bureaucracy, which places its reliance on phony “friends” in the bourgeois government.

In the same camp as the labor sellouts, the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO) complained in an article by Gillian Russom in International Socialist Review (May-June 2010): “Education should be at the center of a national debate on social priorities, led by a president who promised ‘change.’ Instead, the economic crisis is being used by the White House to dramatically accelerate a neoliberal agenda for education.” This is simply the language of disappointed suitors, as seen in an exchange among ISO leaders over just how low to bow before the imperialist Commander-in-Chief, whose election the ISO hailed (see article, page 2). Earlier, the ISO’s Socialist Worker (2 November 2009) offered that a “real ‘Race to the Top’ program” could “start by taking the largely taxpayer-funded $23 billion in bonuses that Goldman Sachs is giving out this year, and put that money toward giving nearly 6 million families that $4,000 income supplement.” Or, as Oliver Twist begged, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

The labor bureaucracy and the reformist left seek to obscure the understanding that this is a capitalist government, whose purpose, as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels instructed over 150 years ago, is to be the executive committee of the ruling class as a whole. Following the years of George W. Bush, the Obama administration was put into office to provide a much-needed facelift for U.S. imperialism in order to further its predatory interests abroad and grind down the working class, blacks and immigrants at home. While handing out billions to bankers and auto bosses, Obama has appealed to everyone else to embrace a “spirit of sacrifice.” Meanwhile, he repeats the disgusting tirade that crumbling schools and poverty are “no excuses” for the black masses and that “hardships will just make you stronger.” Enough! We say: Break with the Democrats! For a workers party that fights for a workers government!

After escaping slavery and educating himself as a fighter in the left wing of the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass observed that, in the eyes of the slaveholders, to educate a man “would forever unfit him to be a slave.” The logic of this statement remains unchanged a century and a half later. To give all people the means to attain their full creative potential requires overturning the present social order, based on the exploitation of labor, vicious racial oppression and grinding poverty. Only after a multiracial workers party leads the proletariat, at the head of all the oppressed, in overthrowing the decaying capitalist system and constructing an egalitarian socialist society will mankind be freed of the fetters of scarcity and want, and real human history will begin.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your post.

    In Minneapolis all the public schools are closing in the Afro-American neighborhood here.