Last October 24, at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, a conference of several hundred teachers, students, workers, and parents came together to plan a response to the cuts in the state's financial support for public education, and the resulting tuition hikes, layoffs, increases in class sizes, school closures, and other negative impacts. The conference decided to call for a day of action against the cuts, and chose March 4 as the date.
What began in California has now expanded into a national call, and what began as a movement of those directly affected by public education budget cuts has swelled into a much broader groundswell of opposition to the way the government has placed the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of workers, students, and the growing ranks of the unemployed, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color and women, especially single mothers.
The March 4 movement presents an opportunity, unlike any in the recent past, to bring together students, the labor movement, and the oppressed communities in unified mass actions demanding an end to the US plutocracy's drive to reduce our standard of living. There is a danger, however, that the movement will be sidetracked by labor union bureaucrats and vapid "progressives" into empty speechifying and pointless calls for legislative reform. As the flyer distributed by my organization at the October 24 conference put it:
What fake socialists, liberals, and progressives won’t say is that for us to win quality education, affordable health care, jobs for all, a clean environment, and an end to war, capitalism must die. We must replace this entire system – the economic foundation, the political structures, and the armed power of the state – with workers’ democratic self-management, all the way from the points of production and distribution to the highest levels of decision making and enforcement. What we need is a Workers’ Government run by workers’ power.
Rallies, teach-ins, forums, and one-day work stoppages alone will not end the attack on education. To win, we need prolonged general strike action across the state against the rule of the capitalists, in all the workplaces in both the public and private sectors, in the schools the universities and in the streets. We must fight for transitional demands that can break the grip of the capitalist media and world view on the masses of workers.
I have been working with one of the Northern California committees that is planning for March 4, and I am pleased to report that so far, the danger that the movement will be diverted into dead end reform efforts has mostly been kept at bay. At the Northern California regional meeting of March 4 organizers last weekend, the assembled students, teachers, workers, and activists voted to support mass actions, including strikes and the occupation of campus buildings, and to endorse demands like the following:
- Fully funded, free public education from preschool through graduate school and adult education
- Student, faculty, staff, parent, and working class community control over the entire public education system, from preK-12 through graduate school and adult education
- No privatization of education; no union busting, no charter schools; down with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top
- Full citizenship rights for immigrants with no deportations
I urge likeminded OS readers, who are sick and tired of seeing the burden of the economic crisis fall disproportionately on those least able to bear it, and who can no longer live under a system that imposes that result, to find out whether a March 4 action is being organized in your community, and join in the effort to make March 4, 2010 a turning point in the history of the US workers' movement!