The struggle in Oaxaca has always been more than the struggle of school workers for better teaching conditions, wages, and benefits. The lessons of Oaxaca can be learned everywhere.
It has been a community-wide battle against the connection of exploitation and the systematic ruin of education, against racism and sexism. In many instances, the Oaxaca struggles have pointed to the use of the Mexican government as a weapon of the rich, and to the secrets of capitalism itself, from the need to divide people along religious or other lines in order to use those divisions to demolish us, to the key secret: capitalism demands exploitation, injustice, inequality and war—and capital’s greatest fear: we can learn to live beyond capital, peacefully and free, equitably and democratically.
The struggle in Oaxaca has come under sharp, deadly, attack. Lives have been lost to further the battle to live in a better world. Even so, courageous people have stayed united, and have taken direct action, from seizing territory to seizing radio stations. Elites have used force, but so far in limited ways, because they fear the people’s response.
Now, however, the rich and powerful may be about to try another tactic; a Trojan Horse offered to Oaxacans through well-meaning, but completely uninformed, people, a Trojan Horse filled with bosses of the teacher unions in the United States. Some US professors are about to bring US labor leaders to Oaxaca, and introduce them as “allies.” That is wrong.
The leaders of the US teachers unions are reactionary dangerous people. They hold to an idea that they call “New Unionism.” What they mean is they support the unity of US union members, the US government, and US corporations, in the “national interest.” That is what they think is the main reason for having a union; not because working people and their bosses have little but contradiction in common, are on opposing sides, but because working people in the US will do better if working people outside the US do worse.
There is nothing new about their kind of unionism, though. It’s the same kind of idea that was the foundation of Mussolini’s Corporate State: fascism.
But “New Unionism,” is not just a bad, old, idea. In practice, it means that the leadership of the US teacher unions have been involved, for decades, with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), seeking to destroy workers’ movements all over the world.
The two major US teacher unions are the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the National Education Association (NEA). Leaders of both unions are deeply involved in this activity, but few of their own rank an file members know about it.
How does this work? Both NEA and AFT (and the umbrella organization of nearly all US unions, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations; AFL-CIO) operate through front groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD).
NED and AIFLD are funded by secret money from the CIA, the US State Department, and they are supported by funds and personnel from US unions, especially from NEA and AFT. Nearly one-half of the dues income the AFL-CIO receives is spent outside the USA, in conjunction with campaigns led by the CIA.
They use the same divide-and-conquer, reward-and-punish, befriend-and-betray methods that any elite might use to keep people in line.
For example, they identify and recruit local leaders, bring them to “training” sessions in the USA, bribe them, threaten them, and turn them back to be used to destroy the movements they once could have led.
They pay people off, and threaten others. They pretend to be allies, and work behind the workers’ backs to deceive us.
They use force. They have been involved in US attempts to overthrow governments, and massacre since even before the Allende days in Chile, right up to the recent attempts to overthrow the government of Venezuela. They do not play. These people are killers.
Why do they do this? US labor leaders live off the fruits of US imperialism. Leaders of the NEA and AFT, at the top, earn nearly 0,000 a year, about ten times the average wage of US teachers. It is a lot. In addition, they create the illusion of not only power for themselves, but they get to pretend they are being creative and patriotic, when in fact all they are is selfish and corrupt.
Over time, as US labor leaders separate more and more from the rank and file, their lives become like the bosses in the industries they represent, and unlike the workers. The union bosses shop and live in different places, play golf with the bosses, dine at fancy restaurants, and, at the end of the day, literally join the other side.
These labor mis-leaders know that their many privileges are rooted in the betrayal of, not only their own members, but workers all over the world. Their incomes depend largely on the success of US imperialism, the struggle of capitalists in the US to find cheap labor, raw materials, markets, and social control, all over the world. That is why nearly every major US union backs the failed oil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Caspian region. US unions supported the wars on Vietnam as well.
Many US working people, including teachers, support the unions because they do not know what their own unions are doing, and because they find it hard to believe that their unions would turn around and deceive them, but that is what is happening. Many union members do not grasp that the unions are theirs, and not ours.
That does not make rank and file union members entirely innocent. While it is hard for many people to learn what goes on outside the US, it is easy to see that US unions are segregated unions. That is especially true of the teacher unions, which, taken together, are about 90 percent white.
These are apartheid unions and, wittingly or not, they work on the same basis that the AFT-NEA operate internationally, that is, the idea that white workers (teachers and other school workers) will do better, if school workers of color do worse. If entry into the job can be segregated, that means less people will compete for work, and, inside this theory, pay will go up.
Really, this is just racism, and as a divide and rule tool, it works only for employers over time. Teachers who are isolated from kids and parents (now about 50% people of color), are much less powerful than teachers in an integrated movement. But rank and file teachers have allowed their union leaders to pile up restrictions that make it hard for people of color to become teachers. So the teachers’ unions are, indeed, isolated from the people who they need most, working class kids and parents.
Solidarity is key to winning any workers’ battles, and it is key to the fight going on in Oaxaca now. It is true that working people all over the world need to unite, to take direct action to change the way we all live, for democracy and equality. But we do not need to unite with those who pretend to be our friends, but who will betray us.
If a national “labor leader” from the US approaches our comrades in Oaxaca, it would be best to tell them to go home, get out of Mexico, and fix the racism inside their own unions.
Then, take pictures of them and paste them up everywhere, with the caption: Judas.
Rich Gibson for the Rouge Forum (www.rougeforum.org)