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Democracy, unions and Why I do not support the LEARN act either

Publication Date: 2009-11-18

Rich Gibson declares "These are not democracy's schools. They are capitalist schools." And he explains why.


This was posted to the EPATA list, a group of people trying to figure out what to do next.

I am troubled by the easy focus on electoral work, lobbying, unionism, and "democracy."

"Democracy" is a new religion. Urging people into the electoral world is like urging people into church, or selling fake vaccine.

It seems to me that those who cling to the myth of democracy and set aside the role of capitalism now mistake dreams for reality. I'd argue that the burden of proof is on those who think "democracy" somehow exists as a key form of US government, but that would be more unfriendly than I am.

Al Szymanski outlined the basic functions of the capitalist state's democracy three decades ago. This is a reminder:

1. To guarantee the accumulation of capital and profit maximization and make it legitimate.

2. Preserve, form, and temper, capitalist class rule.

3. Raise money to fund the state.

4. Guarantee and regulate the labor force.

5. Facilitate commerce.

6. Ensure buying power in the economy.

7. Directly and indirectly subsidize private corporations.

8. State sanction of self-regulation of corporations.

9. Advance the overseas interests of corporations.

Democracy does not dominate capital. Democracy submits, atomizes voters to individuals huddled in ballot booths asking capital's favorite question: What about Me?

Today, we witness a fully merged corporate state. The government is openly an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich.

These are not democracy's schools. They are capitalist schools.

The capitalist government's project in capital's schools is:
1) regimented curricula promoting nationalism,

2) racist and anti-working class high stakes exams to limit knowledge and divide people using a false form of science,

3) the logical next step from high stakes exams to merit pay (attacking some of the last people in the US with predictable wages and health benefits),

4) militarization in some areas,

5) national service to syphon off middle class opposition to a potential draft,

6) some privatization (but not only privatization),

7) and the relentless promotion of fear in order to create useful, dutiful, obedient people willing to make war on other poor people in defense of the rich in their homelands.

All of these elements reflect the dual role of capitalist schooling as important markets for profiteering, sometimes contradicted by the real need for social control. At other times those factors meld into one.

The education agenda is a war agenda. It's a class war agenda.

The core issue of our times is the reality of the promise of perpetual war coupled with booming color-coded inequality met by the potential of mass class-conscious resistance. Our project should aim at connecting reason, radical analysis, to power rooted in our own ability to take collective action.

That would mean, rather than begging or bribing politicians, we should be organizing direct actions on campuses (to shut them down or organize test boycotts, and open Freedom Schools), in the military (stand down troops! recruiters off the campus!), in communities (no service cuts, tax the rich and starve the political class), and on the job (emerging control of the work places by the workers).

The unions very structure (the corrupt union bosses aside) and their commitment to defend capitalism (not a single major labor leader in the US believes that workers and bosses have contradictory interests) means that the unions divide people more than unite them. Why rely mainly on these Quisling institutions to do for us what we surely must do for ourselves?

I was at the Fresno meeting, missing ten minutes at most. I did not agree to a focus on propping up the unions (sure, we must have some toes in the unions, but most toes out) nor relying on politicians. I see no reason to mimic the tactics of union hacks in electoral politics, reliance on the courts, counting on the good will of those who bear us no good will at all. I think that's a serious error, but not a dishonest one. Old beliefs die hard.

What I do remember from Fresno is an agreement to focus attention on Susan Ohanian's web site and to establish this list (extending on Susan Harman's initiative). We discussed test boycotts, freedom schooling, and other forms that people have learned to resist. We also talked about the Bacca bill, adding that the Obama's RATT money will probably trample any legislative attempt to turn aside the old NCLB's goals.

Time is not unlimited. The grinding down of life in the US, and the likely expansion of the empire's wars, will mean a much more restrictive environment ahead unless real resistance, that can sustain itself and is not dependent on the grace of politicos or union hacks, rises soon.

People will fight back as they are more and more positioned in ways such that they must fight back to live. At issue is whether or not they will make sense of why they must fight and take on the system of capital itself, coupled with necessary reforms, or if they will just deepen oppression in new ways by only fighting education cuts, and ignoring war, for example. Without the north star of a grasp of capitalism which addresses the whole of the problem, any movement will remain directionless and easily divided.

We can see that now as teachers who willfully administered the child abuse that is high-stakes exams begin to organize and fight, not the tests, but layoffs. That disconnect has to be troublesome.

There are hints of real action against our decaying positions.

On campuses, students are demonstrating even where they have not demonstrated much before (as at SDSU Monday), they are seizing buildings (UCSC where they issued a statement saying that "winning a reform in a university could be like winning a reading room in a prison") and in Illinois where grad students went on strike yesterday and appear to have won a contract today--by direct action.

In the military, troops are learning (often too late) that their officers send them on stupid missions, that they have no strategic goals other than to forge regional control over things like oil and pipelines, and that their main goal is to not get shot. The military has abandoned much emphasis on Democracy or WMD's or war to end war as none of that sells, meaning the military has no moral grounds, key in warfare.

Ford workers recently rejected a sellout UAW contract, resistance that should have happened thirty years ago when it was clear that concessions do not save jobs but, like giving blood to sharks, only make bosses want more. Still, the NO vote was overwhelming, embarrassing to the traitorous UAW leadership. Nevertheless, the rejection of the UAW leadership is a signal of change.

Riverside, CA, teachers recently organized and shot down their own sellout contract.

It is right to rebel. We should do it ourselves, as we are what we do, and support others who fight back too. It is wrong to exploit others. An injury to one only goes before an injury to all. We need to fight racism, nationalism, and sexism and do all we can to demolish them, before they are used to demolish us. That's a starting point to revive an ethic of a new social movement to, not just reason with people, but fight to transcend the system of capital.

Of course, justice demands organization rooted in the trust that is made possible through close personal ties built over time. I think that's part of what we are working on now.

For expansions on the Education Agenda as a War Agenda: http://richgibson.com/edagenda_waragenda.html

On the nature of the US unions: http://richgibson.com/USUnionism.html

Good luck to us, every one.


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