|Written by La Voz de Los Trabajadores|
|Tuesday, 02 October 2012 03:32|
Today’s balance of forces
As the Fall of 2012 starts, we find ourselves in an uneven balance of forces – on the one hand we have a continuation of one of the deepest offensives on the public education and public services in California and nationally, and on the other hand, we have radical democratic spaces in campus organizing (such as Student for a Democratic University in UC Berkeley) and cross-community spaces (such as Occupy Education Nor Cal and So Cal Education Organizing Coalition), that are attempting to lay the foundations for a fight-back in California to the ruling class’s austerity offensive.
The ruling class have been strategizing and imposing the demise of public education as a publicly funded institution since the early 2000s. One of its biggest offensives in 2009 was derailed thanks to the united fight-back of UC’s (with UC Berkeley at the forefront with its massive 5000+ demonstration in September 24 and building occupations) and to the resistance being put forward by public school teachers in So Cal with the LA teachers hunger strike and protests.
Fast forward three years to 2012, and we have seen sectors of the American masses respond to the austerity measures and the lowering of standard of living (following the 2008 economic recession) through continued public education demonstrations not only in California but nationwide, the Wisconsin Capitol Occupation, & the massive Occupy encampments and demonstrations. Furthermore, CTU (Chicago Teacher’s Union) just went through one of the biggest public sector workers strike (a nine day strike) to improve both their working conditions and the education that is provided to the kids and won some of their contract goals (i.e. rehire laid-off teachers, main class sizes, etc.) Nonetheless, the fight-back of workers, students and their allies is happening but its size and militancy is not enough to counter the ruling-class deep offensive.
We must avoid the trap of elections
This is the backdrop of the balance of forces this coming year as students and labor are re-organizing after Occupy’s peak last year and are figuring out how to best mount a fight-back to the austerity policies as the latter advance into a more “mature” stage of implementation. If that wasn’t enough, students and workers will have to deal with the “sports-mania” that the presidential and local elections this coming November will bring – and the “lesser of two evils” rhetoric of the Democratic Party and their subordinated “allies” (most labor leadership, student governments, & NGO’s). In this respect, student and allies at UC Berkeley, CCSF, SF State, and colleges in Southern California are proposing the building of an independent and bottom-up student union as an alternative to student governments who are appendages of the Democratic Party.
We must avoid co-optation attempts!
There has been much progress made on the student union project in California, as the statewide student union conference of last Spring in May 17 in Los Angeles showed with the adoption of principles and mandates for the union. There will be another statewide conference this October 20 at UC Berkeley that will attempt to tackle the next steps. Our opinion is that the conference should discuss and adopt a “slim” organizational structure and call for a united day of action of all the education sectors.
The progress made on this student union project has gotten the attention of some organizational bodies – specifically UCSA (University of California Student Association), which is a UC-wide organization whose staff’s (mostly UC alumni) main focus has traditionally been lobbying for “progressive” issues of the Democratic Party. They have contacted the student union project folks and seem interested in collaborating on the project. In the meantime, they are trying to build a system-wide “union” of the various higher education student associations (CC’s and Cal States) in order to combine their lobbying leverage. As background on UCSA and the other student associations, it is important to note that they have rarely supported the calls to mobilize and defend public education- beyond the lobbying level- since the 2009 protests and have rarely worked with the various organizing bodies of previous years that worked on the mass and democratic conferences and actions.
So it is a bit odd that after some progress on the student union project, we are being approached to work together – for us it seems like an attempt to co-opt and channel our energy to build a union from the top down and to tie us to the lobbying efforts and Democratic Party electoral methods. Nonetheless, we don’t oppose working with any organizations who want to work with us; if any organization or individual agrees with the principles, mandates, structures and actions that our student union project is proposing, we should invite them to our union project.
We are only pointing out the reality that in the construction of the union, we will be coming across other organizations and individuals who may express different values and methods then ours and we can be most ready by continuing with the our original project of building a democratic and mobilizing student union like those of Quebec and Chile. The method of lobbying of UCSA, of the conservative student governments we face, and of the legislative propositions like Prop 30 (i.e. Brown’s compromised Millionaire’s Tax) aren’t strategies to win but to fail.
We cannot ignore the reality that the DP and Republican Party will betray us any moment they no longer need us. After all this year’s student union foundational work, and also the past 3 years of mobilizing to defend public education through mass and democratic methods, it is in our best interest that the student union project keeps its independence from the twin capitalist parties and its allies (in the guise of student government and UCSA). Thus, tying ourselves to their lobbying and “inaction” methods will only take our movement into a deep grave.
We must continue the fight-back!
We must continue building what we have been building -not only from this past year- but also since today’s public education movement started in 2009. We have had concrete victories along the way: forcing our previous California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to return $300 million dollarsback to the UC budget in October 2010, hosting one of the biggest GA’s in the Occupy movement and in UC Berkeley history on November 16th, helping win back the jobs of custodians in 2010, stopping the threat of a 81% fee hike in 2011, and other notable successes.
Therefore, we must continue doing what has contributed to our success, including expanding our base as a movement amongst students, workers and the community through outreach, demonstrations and by preparing the October 20 statewide union conference. As the attacks on public education intensify, we must continue respond to the ruling class offensive.
The attack on CCSF, CTU, and Prop 30
To this end, all education sectors must mobilize to defend CCSF (City College of San Francisco) from losing its accreditation in the plan of the ruling class push forward it’s plans of austerity in order to cut classes, services (like ESL and adult education), wages and the benefits of teachers and staff. We must educate folks about the need to defend public education and that our best weapon is our independent and mass democratic fight-back methods. We must support CCSF’s ability to fight-back and support a call to action to defend the de-accreditation attack on October 15.
Furthermore, we must support the CTU strike – not only because it’s one of the largest public sector fight-backs in years, but because what happens there will affect our public education struggles in California. The ruling classes are pulling some of the same attacks in California and we must convince workers and students here that we must do what CTU is doing – mobilizing its members from the bottom-up and mounting a fight-back against the dismantling of public education as we know it.
On top of that, this fall year we must brace ourselves in order to avoid pitfall electoral traps like Brown’s Proposition 30. We aren’t against supporting electoral propositions that would tax the wealthy and corporations – we and other Occupy activists came out in strong support for the Millionaire’s tax initiative before it was dropped by the CFT labor leadership. The labor leadership capitulated to the pressure of the DP, who has framed Prop 30 as tax measure to save public services. Nonetheless, we think it must be further examined. Though the proposition taxes the rich, the revenue generated by this tax lies purely in control of the government of the 1%. We have written more about our position on Prop 30 in the article “Brown’s Blackmail to the 99%: Cut it or Pay For it!”
Thus, our stance on Prop 30 is to abstain on campaigning for or against it but to denounce it as a blackmail proposition. If the proposition passes, the ruling class will continue with its austerity regardless. Our time is better spent this coming year by preparing our fight back and to continue building class independence of students (and workers) and to push for mass mobilizations – which is tied into the student union project.
In summary, as socialists we think it’s important that the public education & services movement understand that there is an unevenness of struggle between the ruling class and the rest of students, youth, workers and oppressed: there is an unevenness due to the deep offensive of the ruling class versus the fragmented and relatively weak response by the exploited- which puts us in a weak position. The ruling class has more centralized power in its institutions and in thought. Thus it is able to strike a blow, however they wish, whenever they wish and in whichever place they wish.
The current movement cannot counter those capabilities-yet- but building a statewide and system student would allow us to even this disadvantage.