From Egypt, to Wisconsin, to California…
Here Comes the 2011 Fight Back!!
The Struggle Against the Cuts Continues
Our movement has made incontestable gains: we sparked a nation-wide debate about the endangering of public education, we have pressured UC administrators and the California legislature with key demands that represent our interests (and the interests of the majority of Californians), and through continued struggle and mass actions, we have made concrete gains including last year’s partial budget restoration. With Gov. Brown’s $12.5 billion in cuts to California’s public services, $1.4 billion of which come from the UCs, Cal States, and Community Colleges, we need to demand again for the reversal of the cuts, an end to attacks on workers’ rights and benefits – and an end to layoffs, fee hikes and the repression of student and worker activists.
Instead of “balancing” the growing inequalities in our country, or the burden of taxation, both the Democratic and Republican parties increase the numbers of unemployed (by laying-off thousands of teachers and other public workers), slash the few available public services for the most vulnerable, and eviscerate the public education system, our best investment in future generations.
The logic of these “austerity measures” defies common sense. Why are we not looking into ways of increasing revenue for public services now that they are most needed – with California families hurting from foreclosures and the job losses of the Great Recession? Why are we not creating more union and public sector jobs to fight the unemployment and the increasing impoverishment of the California population? The answer to these questions is clear: we have an enduring and deep crisis of political leadership and representation.
The Challenges and Tasks of the Education Movement
Like October 7th, 2010 before it, this March 2nd Day of Action for Public Education will be a day to start consolidating forces that have been organizing against the privatization of public education in order to begin pushing for mass and mobilized actions. This is in order to start rebuilding ties in our schools and in the public education must mobilize against Governor Brown’s 2011 proposal of devastating cuts of $12.5 billion to the education and social services budgets. Wisconsin and Egyptian youth, workers and community members have shown us that mobilizing mass direct actions are possible and California and the rest of the U.S. must go in that direction to defeat the attempts of the Obama administration to make the poor, youth and communities of color pay for their budget crisis – the one started by the Wall Street and Big Bank capitalists!
What does Wisconsin and Egypt teach us? These militant and mass supported actions confirms that our past mobilizations have not been in vain and that we are not alone in this fight. What we have been trying to do in California and the rest of the U.S. can work: our mass, direct actions can stop the austerity measures and our organizing and actions can mobilize many people!
We must learn from our past the success and limitations of Sept 29, Nov 20, March 4, and Oct 7 and we will have to swim against the current to make March 2 the start of a fight-back that is able to mobilized consistent support from our schools & community. This means we have to build mobilizations around clear immediate demands, while combining these with a transformative program for our university that brings together the needs of all the various communities that are fighting back.
What are the limits and obstacles of Wisconsin and our past California mobilizations that we can learn from? The backdrop of the 100,000 people that mobilized in Wisconsin is not only similar to our struggle in California but also points to the coming strategies of the state administrations to balance their budget shortfalls on the most exploited and under-funded sectors of education and social services. Browns special election this June is California’s ruling class strategy to share the pain of their crisis.
At the same time, we recognize that powerful movements, the ones that are victorious (like Egypt, and possibly Wisconsin), cannot be constituted through successive and fragmented “days of actions.” We need to deepen the degree of mobilizations and actions so that they are sustained, constant, and extend beyond the education sector, and we must ultimately shift the balance of political power to our side. Without this level of mobilization, we cannot win our demands. Our past united days of action have been our first step towards giving us the conditions to sustain and escalate our resistance.
Why Do We Need a Political Leadership
for the Struggle?
The fight for the political independence of the movement and its democratic character is key to the sustainability, authenticity and growth of it. Past building of the independence of the movement on multiple fronts included independence from electoral politics (fought off efforts to do election-focused rallies, etc.) & independent mobilization of the rank-and-file workers (UAW’s opposition caucus AWaDU).
In the past (and we predict as well in the future), the independence and democratic structure of the movement will come under pressure as bureaucratic structures, which sometimes include the entrenched union leadership and some student governments, will seek to control the direction and political content or organization and the mobilization efforts. One of the main dangers as we near California’s June special election on Brown’s regressive tax reform is that these two sectors are likely to attempt to funnel the new wave of mobilization into electoral politics and the support of the Democratic Party, at the expense of independent militant mass mobilization.
Perspectives for Continuing to Build Independent, Democratic and Mass Mobilization
The experience of UC Berkeley, Laney, Santa Monica College and a few other campuses throughout the state in building up for the October 7th Day of Action (2010) shows the real possibility that exists for strengthening, expanding and radicalizing our struggle. We need to build on these experiences, taking from them what worked and generalizing those strategies while using the March 2nd Day of Action as a launching point.
Furthermore, our outreach, demands and points of unity should have an emphasis on the fact that these austerity measures are hurting working class people of color the most, given that Blacks and Latinos are some of the highest users of public education and social services. Ethnic studies departments and programs have been banned in Arizona and similar bills are on the table. Furthermore, Ethnic Studies departments and school programs are being the first programs to be cut and sapped of financial resources. We must denounce this in our actions and connect this as a racist and 21st century form of segregation!
This is this year’s first stage of a longer plan for national [and international] mobilization that can benefit from the Wisconsin mobilizations and could soon include other states, like Indiana & Ohio, where their Governors have proposed elimination to union’s collective bargaining and further budget cuts to public education and social services. We must also keep in mind that pushing for and sustaining international links to the Arab revolutions and their mobilizations will help connect the world-wide struggles to defeat the capitalists’ plans to make the working-class and exploited sectors pay for their crisis!
Next Steps of Our Struggle
Going into next few months, the statewide education movement must have as a priority to continue the work of building strong bases in the schools themselves using the experiences of UCB and other schools, to strengthen and revive the labor movement, and to rebuild the regional coordination of the mobilized campuses.
To reconstruct the labor movement, we must first recognize that the labor leadership, with variation from sector to sector and local to local, is unwilling to enact a consistent and uncompromising plan to fight back the layoffs, cuts, and plans of privatization. So concretely, this means seeing, on the one hand, how to build bodies of rank-and-file self-organization within the unions, and, on the other, seeing how they are organized or becoming organized independent of the union, through progressive teacher’s associations for example, and trying to politicize these spaces to become bodies of struggle.
For rebuilding local coordination in our next mass direct actions and outreach, we must have a plan to revive and improve the local mobilizing bodies and strike committees. These bodies played an important role in involving teachers from the K-12 sector in the build-up for March 4th and in bringing together rank-and-file activists and in unifying the movement around a commitment from all sectors to fight back together.
Fight for a Program that Really That Demands What We Really or Need Our Program
– Drop all the charges for student activists
– No to the Cuts! Reverse All Layoffs and Fee Hikes
– Tax the Rich and the Corporations
– Democratize our Schools and Campuses
– Money for Jobs and Education Not for War and Incarceration
– Don’t Touch Our Union Rights! Full Solidarity With Wisconsin Public Workers!
All out March 2nd of Action to Save Public education!
Solidarity with the Wisconsin and
other state’s Mobilizations!
Come to the Organizing Conference
for Public Education March 12th!
All out to the April 10th Anti-War March!