imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Dueling Strategies in the Defense of Public Education, Part 2

by Workers Action Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 at 8:25 AM
sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org

In Part I of this essay we looked at strategies in defense of public education that are referred to as “ultra-left,” meaning that they veer so far left that they sever ties with the working class and consequently lose all traction when it comes to influencing the movement. Here we will examine strategies that veer to the right, often ending up in the camp of opportunism, which means sacrificing principles and working class independence for the sake of quick but illusory gains. The interests of working people are subordinated to those of the capitalist class and the politicians who represent them, be they Democrats or Republicans. Finally, we will return to the question of how to proceed forward.



Organized Labor and the Democrats

Many top union officials often serve as examples of this rightward deviation. Some took the opportunity to place the blame for the crisis of public education at the feet of Republican Governor Schwarzenegger, overlooking the fact that the California Democratic Party politicians have routinely showered generous tax breaks on corporations, thereby depleting the state treasury of much needed money for public education and social services. In this way these union officials are taking advantage of the education crisis to offer backhanded support to Democratic Party candidates by denigrating their opponents. Others do this more explicitly by announcing at rallies in defense of public education that “we” are going to support one or another Democratic Party candidate who is truly a “friend of labor.”

But the promotion of Democratic Party candidates or politicians forgets that Democrats, as well as Republicans, receive huge amounts of money from corporations and the rich. Corporations do not give money to candidates without the expectation of a handsome return on their investment, often taking the form of favorable legislation, including generous tax breaks. After all, the people who run these corporations are always looking at the bottom line, as they say.

One need only take a quick look back at the past four decades to realize the Democratic Party has done virtually nothing for working people. Our standard of living has been on a steady decline while the income of the rich has skyrocketed, public education and social services have been decimated, bankers were allowed to prey on us, ruin our lives, and even commit criminal acts in the process, and then get bailouts while we lost our jobs, our health care, and our houses and were left to struggle on our own. Meanwhile the environment has become progressively more polluted. The tax burden has been shifted off corporations and the rich onto students (in the form of tuition or fee increases) and working people. Moreover, not one significant labor law reform has been passed while the Democrats have held the White House with majorities in both houses of Congress. The latest blow came when, even with their recent super majority in Congress, the Democrats could not bring themselves to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made organizing unions easier. And they have entirely given up pretending that they would like to eliminate the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act.

Democratic Leadership vs. the California Democracy Act

More recently, the Democrats have played a devious and manipulative role in response to the California Democracy Act, which would reduce the requirement for the California state legislature to pass a budget and raise revenue from two-thirds vote to a simple majority. While many of the rank and file Democratic Party clubs have actually endorsed the Act, those who wield power in the party are doing everything they can to subvert it.

John Burton, California Democratic Party Chair, is promoting a competing initiative that would only reduce the requirement for passing a budget to a simple majority while raising revenue would still require a two-thirds vote. The logic behind this maneuver is self-serving and perverse: By maintaining a two-thirds requirement to raise taxes, the Democratic Party can continue pretending as if they would really like to raise taxes on the rich and the corporations, but the Republicans refuse and the Democrats lack a two-thirds majority that would allow them to override the Republican resistance. In this way, Democrats can talk as if they support working people — after all, talk is cheap — while at the same time not alienating their corporate sponsors by actually raising their taxes.

Jerry Brown, California Attorney General and Democratic Party candidate for governor, added his own twist to undermine the California Democracy Act. As Attorney General he has the power to label the initiative and cunningly chose the word “taxes” rather than “revenue,” thereby throwing fear into the heart of ordinary working people who do not want to see their own taxes rise and thereby lowering the chances of its passage. However, the majority of Californians, along with the rest of the country, are strongly supportive of raising taxes on the rich and on the corporations, which is the ultimate goal of those who initiated the California Democracy Act. Because he is now a candidate for governor, Brown does not want to alienate the wealthy with the specter of their taxes rising with the passage of this Act.

Why the Democratic Party Can’t Defend Working People

The explanation for the failure of the Democratic Party to defend the interests of working people is straightforward: they place their faith in capitalism. They believe it is the best of all possible economic systems. But capitalism, because of its very essence, operates in opposition to the interests of working people. Because capitalists are in a constant state of competition with one another, in order to survive each must keep production costs to a minimum. Those who succeed can undersell their opponents, push them out of business, and in this way survive. But labor constitutes a major production cost, and accordingly, business owners are always intent on running the business with as few workers as possible, with the lowest wage scale, and with ever-dwindling benefits. Whenever possible, they consequently transform their workforce into part-timers, mercilessly take advantage of undocumented workers, replace workers with machines or computers, demand that the workforce take a pay cut, contract out work to avoid union wages, transfer the entire business overseas to find the cheapest possible labor, and so on. They are not in business to serve the community or provide jobs to those of us who need them; they are in business to maximize profits for themselves. And if they do not succeed, they go under. The Democrats, just as much as the Republicans, are intent on supporting U.S. capitalism at the expense of working people. Accordingly, despite lip service to the contrary, they are compelled to be fundamentally anti-labor and have done nothing to mitigate, let alone stop, these crippling trends.

Even when the Democrats pretend to do something for workers, like pass legislation that would encourage the creation of jobs, they do it by helping out the corporations. Just this past week Congress passed a so-called jobs creation program that simply amounted to giving corporations one more tax break: they do not have to pay their share of Social Security for the remaining year for any new worker they hire. Of course, the workers have to pay their share of Social Security. And perversely, in the final analysis such legislation will pave the way for the Democrats, in alliance with Republicans, to begin to dismantle Social Security on the grounds it is insolvent.

Alliances with Organized Labor

Convinced at this point in history that there is no other game in town, organized labor has turned to the Democrats, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into their campaign chests, with the desperate hope of winning some substantial gains. But despite these munificent gestures, it has seen very little “return on its investment.” In fact organized labor has begun to exhibit the classic symptoms of the neurotic: one repeatedly does the same thing with the exact same results while expecting a different outcome. As long as organized labor is anchored to capitalism, it will have little choice except to humbly plead for help from the Democrats. But as the capitalist system continues to decline, and economic indicators are pointing in this direction, the pressure will intensify on labor officials from their membership to find their sanity and try something different.

Some have argued that because of their ties to the Democratic Party, the movement to defend public education should reject forming a united front with the unions. A united front is defined as an organized movement in which working people, although they might have different political perspectives and belong to different political parties, nevertheless come together to fight for a few fundamental issues that they have in common. The antiwar movement, for example, is a united front as well as the movement to defend public education and social services.

But despite its ties to the Democratic Party, the impulse to reject working with organized labor in a united front is misguided. First, because of the intensity of the current economic crisis, union members are mounting growing pressure on their union officials to defend their interests as they witness the massive layoffs of their coworkers and suffer pay cuts and furloughs. With no help coming from the Democratic Party, organized labor will be increasingly compelled to act independently of the Democrats and begin to turn instead to mobilizing its own ranks, and working people in general, in the form of mass demonstrations in order to exert political pressure in their own self-interest.

Second, as was mentioned in Part I of this article, the Democratic Party has in fact launched an attack on organized labor, particularly the teacher unions, by championing Race to the Top and leaving No Child Left Behind basically intact. And it has signaled its intention to cut “entitlements,” meaning Social Security and Medicare. These attacks drive a wedge between organized labor and the Democratic Party.

Third, by including organized labor in united fronts, union rank and file members will be exposed to a variety of political perspectives, including those that are critical of the Democratic Party and capitalism. These ideas can in turn influence the direction of the unions.

Fourth, by joining a large united front movement to save public education and social services, an entirely new perspective opens up to the unions. Currently, when fighting for gains or when simply defending what workers already have, unions have been engaging in purely symbolic protests. For example, a small demonstration is called at the house of some U.C. Regent, or at a bank during working hours when hardly anyone can come, or perhaps at Senator Diane Feinstein’s house, where a few hundred union members, at best, show up. But small symbolic demonstrations have little impact on employers or government policy. The union officials are only going through the motions of protesting without believing that anything significant can be won.

Mass Action

In contrast, during the 1930s workers staged massive demonstrations, mobilizing all their members and supporters from the community, in order to completely close down a particular business and force the owners to raise wages and recognize the union. The Civil Rights movement organized huge demonstrations and tore down racial barriers. The women’s movement organized mass demonstrations and won the right to vote.

Massive demonstrations unleash a dynamic that has the potential to change the political landscape. When people are brought together in large numbers, they no longer feel isolated and powerless. They begin to experience first-hand the strength that flows from their unity, which in turn encourages and pushes them forward in the struggle to win even more adherents. Here working people are acting independently of the politicians, flexing their muscles, as it were, and beginning to experience their own political power. As the demonstrations grow in size, it becomes apparent that they truly represent the interests and have the support of the majority of Americans. And because of this support, people become convinced that victory is possible. In the final analysis, these demonstrations lead to the recognition that what was considered an unrealistic dream only yesterday, such as full funding for public education and social services, is now entirely within reach.

By endorsing and building the March 4 mass demonstrations in defense of public education and social services, and by demanding that taxes be raised on the rich and the corporations, organized labor is already embarking on a new course of action that, if pursued, will place it on a collision course with the Democratic Party, which has been championing regressive taxation and has ruthlessly slashed social services, taking money from the most vulnerable people in society and transferring it to the big corporations in the form of new tax breaks.

The stakes are high. Those in organized labor clearly recognize that they will be up against powerful forces, representing the wealthiest sector of society, if they continue to insist on raising their taxes. They understand this will be class war. But as the California state budget continues to hemorrhage so that even more teachers and state workers are laid off, the unions will have little choice but to continue along this path. And while the wealthy are surely powerful, working people, when united and organized independently as a class, are even more powerful. If the owners of businesses, that is, the stockholders, are absent from their work sites, no one notices. However, when workers collectively decide not to go to work, society comes to a grinding halt. In the final analysis this fact ensures that working people have the power to insist that society operate in the interests of the majority, and working people are the vast majority.

*******

About the Authors:

Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.). Ann Robertson is a Lecturer at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association. Both are writers for Workers Action and may be reached at sanfrancisco@workerscompass.org.

Report this post as:

Local News

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Banks Enriched By Trump Deficit Increase Of 4 to 5 Trillion $ J22 5:48PM

Illegal Russians Receiving Land and Homes in West Bank 2018 J22 11:24AM

Un monde de pauvreté J22 12:54AM

14 Disturbing Facts About Scott Gottlieb, Trump's FDA Head J20 10:47PM

Behind the scenes at fbi National Academy J20 2:47PM

Treasury Takes Aim at Shell Companies J20 11:18AM

Paraphysique de l'intelligence J20 9:08AM

Oklahoma GOP Senator Jim Inhofe's Bloody Record J20 4:01AM

Globalization: hope on the horizon despite Fake Liberals. J20 3:41AM

Sorry President Trump,Ted Cruz Texas Judicial System,is Worse Than Many Shithole Countries J19 4:49PM

The Shortwave Report 07/20/18 Listen Globally! J19 4:33PM

The System Question as a Survival Question J18 8:54PM

Nation's Largest Voting Machine Co., ESS, Admits Lying Re Having Installed Remote Control J18 11:55AM

Du pain et des jeux J18 9:53AM

Paraphysique de martyrologie J17 8:00AM

Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator J16 11:24AM

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy