Note of Camaraderie to our Sisters and Brothers in Struggle
On the eve of the first important day in the 2016 primary election cycle, we offer a draft, never before published but still highly relevant, from a high point of struggle during the last presidential election cycle. The Chicago Teacher’s strike of 2012 was an important moment for the struggle against neoliberal “reforms” to public education, as well as for the trade union and working class movement as a whole. As teachers in Oakland, California involved in efforts at building organization and struggle of parents, teachers, and students, we have been inspired and challenged by the solidarity that was demonstrated on the streets of Chicago during the strike, and we deeply respect the years of strategic work that went into organizing a base of teachers that was able to carry out such a strike. The experiences of Chicago have provided an example of a higher level of militancy and struggle than we have seen in decades.
CORE and the CTU deserve the most recognition for this. As part of this recognition, we wish to deeply engage and scrutinize the strategies that were used to carry out the preparation, execution, and follow up from the strike. Our engagement and scrutiny of these strategies comes from a place of wanting to carry forward at the highest level the struggle against neoliberal capitalist reforms from our location in Oakland; at times this will mean pointing out aspects of the strategy used in Chicago that we are critical of, while at other times it will mean putting forward some initial thoughts on alternatives grounded in our experiences in Oakland. We come from a humble place of respect and camaraderie with our sisters and brothers in Chicago, and we hope that our engagement and scrutiny is taken as a sign of respect for the hard work put into the 2012 strike.
Throughout the country we have seen repeated attacks on teacher unions; these attacks are occurring in the context of an all out assault on unions and working class people as a whole. From Madison to Chicago to Oakland and beyond we have see Democrats and Republicans carrying out legislation that seeks to undermine the gains that workers struggles and trade unions have won for their members; we refer here to seniority, health care, wage increases, and positive developments in working conditions. These gains have been achieved by the movement of working people getting organized formally and informally, in unions and without them at times. All of these forms of movement, organization and struggle are part of what we refer to as class struggle.
Eric Garner’s final words before being choked to death by police for selling cigarettes
Back in the 90’s Michael Jordan was asked if he would support Democratic Party challenger Harvey Gantt, who was running for a North Carolina senate seat against incumbent and strident racist Jesse Helms. Jordan refused and reasoned, “Republicans buy sneakers too”.
Fast forward 25 years to Lebron James demonstrating a similar ambivalence when asked to take a position on the racist police killing of Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice was twelve years old when police officer Tim Loehmann shot him in the stomach for playing with a toy gun; he could have been wearing the latest Lebron sneakers as he was murdered. In seven years, Tamir could have been Lebron James’ teammate.
Tamir Rice was 12 years old when gunned down by police
We continue to share reflections and analysis on the recent student protests in the Bay Area.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement and the movement against police violence has taken on new forms, and has now spread to schools as sites of potential power. Students have held large protests and shutdowns at Mizzou and Berkeley High that have garnered national media attention, but there have also been smaller struggles that have gained less notoriety but are equally as important for militants to study.
These small movements show us new forms of organization that emerge in response to police murders, how students are coordinating these protests, how local histories influence the forms of struggle that take place, the role of Black leadership, how multi-racial solidarities emerge, how students are pushing the boundaries of what the #BlackLivesMatter movement means, and what the limitations may be.
Communist militants must grasp these events on their own terms in order to better understand how the student’s rebellious energy can deepen and spread to other sectors of the economy and to broader layers of the class.
One such event occurred last month, when students at Castlemont High School, in deep East Oakland, held protests and walkouts in response to the police murder of Richard Perkins, Jr. at a sideshow. In order to document the emergent student movement in the Bay Area, we have interviewed a number of students at Castlemont High and we provide our reflections below. Please read, critique and share!
The recent wave of student revolt around the world has brought to light the power that students have to challenge oppressive racial and economic regimes.
In South Africa, university students held national mobilizations against tuition increases and for university workers’ rights. They were able to shut down the entire university system, and ultimately force the government to negotiate with them.
In the US, Black students at the University of Missouri have mobilized against violent, anti-Black threats on campus. These students organized with professors and football players to shutdown key parts of the university, and ultimately forced out the school chancellor and president.
Similarly, Black students at Berkeley High School organized a 2000 person walkout in protest of violent, anti-Black threats. This event made national headlines as another moment in the broader #BlackLivesMatter movement
These experiences raise vital lessons for militants to study and learn from. In this vein, we provide below a flier that we produced shortly after the walkout on it’s lessons and possibilities. Please check it out and let us know what you think!
Posted in Bay Area Class Struggle, Flyers, Resistance News
Tagged austerity, Berkeley High School, Berkeley Protests, blacklivesmatter, BLM, Mizzou Protests, Police Brutality, race, racism, south africa, Students, walkouts
We would like to introduce you to the Advance the Struggle Free Education newsletter, an agitational tool we use at various campuses across the Bay to connect with school workers and students interested in engaging around the conditions and struggles of the education sector.
We welcome any feedback and encourage our friends and supporters to spread these widely!
Here is our first edition:
Even leftists and revolutionary minded people who are critical of Bernie Sanders have put forward the idea that, despite his limitations and the problems with his politics, he’s still defending the public sector more so than other presidential candidates. However, this position fails to take into account Sanders’s position on standardized testing, punitive measures against public school teachers, and the fact that he has in various ways supported both Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race To The Top education policies. We present the Class Struggle Education Workers leaflet critiquing Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s positions on public education because it concisely presents the problems with their positions. Click image for newsletter.
All of us have been paying close attention to development of black insurgency over the past few years. The power of street protests, new black activist groups, and recent anti-racist demands at universities highlight the direction that the movement’s energy is going. Further, the recent spread of pro black, anti-racist demands at numerous universities following the Mizzou protests demonstrate one possible way in which the movement is cohering: through the development of common demands on college campuses.
The Berkeley High School walkout that went down last week shows us that high schools have tremendous potential in also becoming sites of anti-racist and black resistance. In the spirit of exploring the dynamics of insurgent energy spilling over and taking new forms on high school and college campuses, we present to you some reflections on a high school walkout that happened a year ago in Oakland.
While this action is no longer in the recent memory of activists, the way in which students self-organized and developed a set of demands on their specific institution – the Oakland Unified School District – presents an interesting moment that preceded this recent uprising on campuses. We hope that it can contribute to the ongoing discussions on strategy that we’re all taking part in.
November and December of 2014 in Oakland
Protesters block Interstate 580 in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Oakland was an exciting place to be, again, during the hot winter weeks of late November and early December 2014. Protests raged nightly, and so many of us found ourselves marching together through the streets, evading cops, and blocking freeways and BART stations wherever was possible. Walking down Broadway, turning right on 7th street and heading toward the West Oakland BART station. Stopping midway and having debates about which direction to go – toward 980? Back toward the 880? Piedmont? The chaotic discussions we had brought that familiar feeling of ungovernability back to our lives. Our militant and disorderly activities were creative and generative to the extent that we got practice in challenging the infrastructure of Bay Area capitalism, attempting to block flows of traffic in ways that at least felt like we were disrupting flows of capital. Celebrating militancy is important, but perhaps more important is pointing out some of the limitations of our courageous actions.
There are three key limits that we want to highlight here.