Monthly Archives: May 2009

Education Under Capitalism: LA Public Schools and Colleges Cancel Summer School

classroom_1

L.A. Unified School District cancels bulk of summer school programs

Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday it is canceling the bulk of its summer school programs, the latest in a statewide wave of cutbacks expected to leave hundreds of thousands of students struggling for classes.

The reductions, which will force many parents to scramble for child care, are the most tangible effect of the multibillion-dollar state financial cuts to education. Community colleges also have announced summer program cancellations. – LA TIMES

Commentary by JAI: The lessening of the value of labor-power finds it complement in the depreciation of the worker’s skills (i.e. labor’s ability to add value during the production process.  Similarly, when it comes to value-realization (i.e. the sale of the produced items), the workers’ ability to purchase the products of its own labor is diminished.  A virtual virtueless spiral ensues.

The value of labor-power, as the value of any and all commodities, is itself the sum total of the values of the goods and labor that go off into its making.  A large portion of that value is added to the worker-to-be during the education process.  The diminishment of the school year, ‘pupil-free days’ and now the cancelling of summer school indicates the depth of the capitalist crisis.  System-wide, labor is that which the capitalists cannot do without.

Labor is the only source of new value (surplus-value) though competition compels the individual capitalists to cut its own labor-force.  This is the fundamental contradiction of capitalism.  And this shrinking of the time and resources and personnel allocated by the system towards the education of its replacement labor force is but a parallel in the education factory of what takes place in the industrial factories.

There is absolutely no reason (save capitalism) that schools should cut back on education.  There is no reason that factories ought close (save temporarily when they have (and could) produce what they are needed to produce).  There is no reason for the insanity of wars, homelessness, poverty and famine save that these things exist eith because someone can make money off of them or ‘there is no money in them’.  These are the evils of production-for-profit.  These are the stigmata of capitalism.

Now!  More so than ever.  It is socialism or barbarism.

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Police Brutality against Womyn

When we think about the victims of police brutality in our communities, names like Oscar Grant and Sean Bell come to mind. We know that young black men are constantly victimized by the police, but we don’t often talk about the way police violence is used against womyn.

Police brutality, when it happens to a Sean Bell or Oscar Grant, quickly takes a certain shape in the public’s mind…(he was a drug dealer, a gang banger, etc.)

But what about the womyn who are victims of police brutality? We don’t talk about police violence that happens to womyn enough or at all, so we’d like to spark that discussion.

This first video is of police deputy Paul Schene, beating this teen girl, who’s been incarcerated. This happened last year, but he went to court back in March, and pleaded not guilty to 4th degree assault. This was before the video was leaked. Before this he had been investigated for shooting people twice, killing one, in the line of duty. Both times his acts of violence had been justified. How surprising.

The second video is news footage of the cops beating another black teen, Sheila Stevenson, whose crime was bicycling on the sidewalk at night.

We need to start talking about the ways in which police brutality is used to discipline womyn’s bodies. Whether it be strip-searches, cavity-searches, pat-downs, rape, sexual harassment, or just straight up assault and murder, womyn are systematically targeted by a police apparatus that represents and is a reflection of the racist, sexist, capitalist state it serves.

“Most things are a matter of class…” Indian Marxist Aijaz Ahmad

Check out this long quote from an interview with Indian Marxist Aijaz Ahmad:

Aijaz Ahmad

Aijaz Ahmad

Q: In the same article, you remark that “postcoloniality is also like most things a matter of class.” This kind of emphasis on class is, of course, deeply unfashionable. Without dwelling on the notion of “postcoloniality” (if it isn’t too frivolous to ask for an answer in such a limited space), would you care to justify the sweeping proposition that “most things” are a matter of class?

Ahmad: Let me first make explicit a rather memorable reference there. In her biography of Chu Teh, the great commander of the People’s Army during the Revolution in China, Agnes Smedley recalls a moment when she had asked him about his having been a bandit and a thief in his youth. As Smedley tells it, Chu Teh fell silent for a while and then said something like, “Theft, you know, is also a matter of class.” I read that book when I was a very young boy but the truth of that simple statement has stayed with me all these years, and in paraphrasing those words I just wanted to record my admiration for both Smedley and Chu Teh.

But you have asked me to justify those words. I’m not sure how one justifies words so obviously true. India is said to have a population between 900 and 1,000 million. Roughly half of them are illiterate; but no bourgeois is illiterate anywhere in the world and those who constantly speak of “the pleasure of the text” are never poor. Roughly half of the world’s blind people live in India; but blindness too is a matter of class, in the sense that blindness is overwhelmingly a disease of the poor and in the sense that such high incidence of blindness has a lot to do with living in conditions that produce blindness, with number and quality of hospitals, with the ability to pay for cure and care. What needs to justify itself is that other kind of blindness, which refuses to see that most things area matter of class. That refusal is itself very intimately a matter of class.

The real question, then, is: why does one need to reiterate a truth so obvious? I think that the institutionalizing of certain kinds of radicalism has gone hand in hand with a certain sanitization of vocabulary, which is ultimately quite devastating for thought itself. One begins with the idea that there is some economic determination in social life but also that, as Althusser famously put it, “the lonely hour” of that final determination “never comes.” In the next step, one forgoes the idea of economic determination altogether. Then, the critique of capitalism is sundered from any forthright affirmation of what might replace it. So, the more anti-bourgeois, and anti-colonial etc. one becomes, the less one talks about socialism as a determinate horizon. In the process, critiques of capitalism are also sundered from any necessity of working class politics. Indeed, one may use the word “bourgeois,” in a cultural sort of sense, but the word “proletariat” makes one distinctly uncomfortable, as if using such words is some kind of anti-social activity. One may speak of any number of disorientations and even oppressions but one cultivates all kinds of politeness and indirection about the structure of capitalist class relations in which those oppressions are embedded. To speak of any of that directly and simply is to be “vulgar.” In this climate of Aesopian languages it is absolutely essential to reiterate that most things are a matter of class. That kind of statement is I think surprising only in a culture like that of the North American university in which radicalism has not had a powerful connection with movements of the working class in a long time. But it is precisely in that kind of culture that people need to hear such obvious truths.

Soldiers of Solidarity – Militant worker Org w/in the UAW

Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) is a rank-and-file militant workers organization within the United Auto Workers. They think the leaders are sellouts and try to get their coworkers not to accept the new contracts that have been forced upon them now for the last 5 or so years.

Money isn’t lost, it changes hands. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s capitalism.

For a glimpse into the culture of these people check out this video.

Its a little cheesy, the country/blues/rock music isn’t exactly what we listen to on the west coast, and there’s a lot of red, white, and blue. but what counts is their organizing perspective which is dope:

We the People are at war. We need to develop Soldiers, not coareer opportunists. It will take time and patiences, there wil be set backs and victories. Given time and effort, the law of multiplication will prevail. If on goes out and trains two soldiers; and they go aout and do the same, and this continues, we will have our army. We the People are the Union.” — Miguel X. Chavarria

Tupac: Black leaders holding back the movement

What is the role of Marxists in an Economic Crisis?

“The day after the UAW pushed through the contract—claiming it would prevent the company from declaring bankruptcy and save jobs—the number three US automaker filed for Chapter 11 protection and released plans to close eight plants and eliminate another 3,500 jobs.”

“Organizing a fightback using some of the militant tactics of the ‘30s like eviction blockades, mass protests, and strikes with fighting pickets is the only way we can effectively resist. ”

Here are two articles, each one illustrating a different approach to resisting massive capitalist crisis.

In the face of crisis in the 1930s, the Communist Party refused to surrender to circumstances, organizing creatively to stop evictions in the communities, to organize labor in untraditional ways (through a new union federation called the CIO) and to involve the whole working class in its work (e.g. organizing the unemployed despite the contracting economy, organizing sharecroppers, making conscious efforts to reach out to and organize black workers, etc). Nothing they did was perfect, but these strategies demonstrate the creative spirit the left so severely lacks today.

For example, the union movement has no far-left participation within it. The left has no roots in the working class, be they unionized or not. This creates a situation in which UAW can get away with telling its members to accept cuts in pay and benefits and claim that resistance would be futile because workers have no leverage. The defeatism is justified by conjuring up the danger of businesses going bankrupt or moving overseas. When the working class lacks “leverage” in the form of a high demand for their labor, political consciousness and militancy becomes their most valuable asset.

It’s the job of Marxist militants to bring that consciousness to the workers, whether they are blue-collar workers, like in the auto industry, welfare recipients, white-collar computer industry workers, soldiers or veterans, informal economy day-laborers like maids or nannies, or students. With class consciousness comes solidarity, and solidarity generates not only deep commitments to struggle, but also opens up many more paths to action, helping the proletariat redefine the terrain of battle and outflank the capitalist enemy (and supposed progressives in union bureaucracies, non-profit organizations, and of course the Democratic Party). Tthis is the reason why, objectively, internationalism, ant-sexism, anti-racism, pro-ecology, etc., are fused with true proletarian class consciousness. The internalization of these principles creates more unity and opens up options to exploit capitalism’s most vulnerable points at any given time. Some have confused these areas of struggle as alternatives to class struggle, but really they should be seen as extensions of class struggle.

Everything from sexism and racism and ecological destruction are products of class societies and capitalism, even it didn’t generate them in the first place, sure capitalizes on them to increase exploitation and derive profits. what left group is organizing (not just theorizing) along anti-capitalist, class based anti-racism or environmental protection? what organization is doing this with the goal of seizing the means of production, knowing that unless the way we produce, distribute, and consume is thoroughly democratized and socialized, the basis will never exist for any of the cultural and ideological revolutions we know are crucial components of a real communist revolution?

Here are the articles:

White House relies on UAW to ram through GM Job Cuts, Concessions By Jerry White 19 May 2009

Organize and Fight Back – 1930s Struggles of the Unemployed Hold Lessons for Today May 18, 2009 By Jesse Lessinger

“Organizing a fightback using some of the militant tactics of the ‘30s like eviction blockades, mass protests, and strikes with fighting pickets is the only way we can effectively resist. “

“The day after the UAW pushed through the contract—claiming it would prevent the company from declaring bankruptcy and save jobs—the number three US automaker filed for Chapter 11 protection and released plans to close eight plants and eliminate another 3,500 jobs.”


Here are two articles, each one illustrating a different approach to resisting massive capitalist crisis.

In the face of crisis in the 1930s, the Communist Party refused to surrender to circumstances, organizing creatively to stop evictions in the communities, to organize labor in untraditional ways (through a new union federation called the CIO) and to involve the whole working class in its work (eg organizing the unemployed despite the contracting economy, organizing sharecroppers, making conscious efforts to reach out to and organize black workers, etc). nothing they did was perfect, but it demonstrated the creative spirit the left so severely lacks.

for example, the union movement has no far-left participation within it. the left has no roots in the working class, be they unionized or not. this creates a situation in which UAW can get away with telling its members to accept cuts in pay and benefits and claim that resistance would be futile because workers have no leverage. the defeatism is justified by conjuring up the danger of businesses going bankrupt or moving overseas.

when the working class lacks “leverage” in the form of a high demand for their labor, political consciousness and militancy becomes their most valuable asset. its the job of marxist militants to bring that consciousness to them, whether they in a blue collar job like auto, welfare recipients, are white collar computer industry workers, soldiers or veterans, informal economy day laborers maids or nannies, or students. with class consciousness comes solidarity, and solidarity generates not only deep commitments to struggle, but also opens up many more paths to action, helping the proletariat redefine the terrain of battle and outflank the capitalist enemy (and supposed progressives in union bureaucracies, non-profit organizations, and of course the Democratic Party). this is the reason why, objectively, internationalism, ant-sexism, anti-racism, pro-ecology, etc are fused with true proletarian class consciousness. The internalization of these principles creates more unity and opens up options to exploit capitalism’s most vulnerable points at any given time.

some have confused these areas of struggle as alternatives to class struggle, but really they should be seen as extensions of class struggle. everything from sexism and racism and ecological destruction are products of class societies and capitalism, even it didnt generate them in the first place, sure capitalizes on them to increase exploitation and derive profits.

what left group is organizing (not just theorizing) along anti-capitalist, class based anti-racism or environmental protection? what organization is doing this with the goal of seizing the means of production, knowing that unless the way we produce, distribute, and consume is thoroughly democratized and socialized, the basis will never exist for any of the cultural and ideological revolutions we know are crucial components of a real communist revolution?

/////////

White House relies on UAW to ram through GM job cuts, concessions

By Jerry White
19 May 2009
Organize and Fight Back – 1930s Struggles of the Unemployed Hold Lessons for Today
May 18, 2009
By Jesse Lessinger

Worker Unity from China and Mexico to the U.S.

As economies crumble, we can expect political structures to as well. Both Mexico and China have received a fair amount of US outsourcing, and get blamed by protectionists for taking American jobs. It behooves the US working class to pay attention to what’s going on in those countries, because in some ways, the US, Mexico, and China are one extended economy, with one extended (though fractured) proletariat.

Imagine a general strike starting in a plant in Guangdou that makes micro chip parts, spreading to workers in a plant in Mexico, where workers set the China-made parts into processing units to be shipped to LA for final assembly and stamped with a Made in the USA label. Could such a tri-country workers’ movement ever take shape?

In Mexico, the peso crisis of the early nineties and the passage of NAFTA have left the economy in a shambles. Massive emigration, social upheaval (Zapatistas, Oaxaca uprising, 2006 elections, etc) and increasing privatization drives (especially against the state-owned oil company PEMEX) all indicate political instability to match the economic. The latest tragedy to hit the country is the opening of a ruthless drug war that exposes the Mexican state’s vulnerabilities and shows that there is no total monopoly on the means of violence. The Mexican state is under attack and could be said to be slowly breaking down.In China, the political system had been very stable since the Tiannamen Square protest of 1989, thanks in large part to a booming economy. With the onset of the global economic crisis, China’s manufacturing based economy has contracted, leaving 10s of millions of chinese workers unemployed. The boom itself opened up a rift between haves and have-nots that was much less acute prior to China’s meteoric economic rise, but the bust holds the potential to revive China’s Marxist legacy. It remains to be seen what the destiny of China’s rising left is, but conditions are ripe for its growth.

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