On the Union Debate: A Reply to John Garvey

John Garvey has made several important and critical comments on the unions. He was the first to point out that only 14 million workers are in unions, highly located in the public sector, and including police and jails. Under the surface it appears we have differences dealing with the existing unions, and apsire to continue to have a public dialogue and public debate on the matter.  In order to come to a better understanding of this particular juncture and the work that should be done, we must dig deep into the politics of the matter, and see who proposes what, in the concrete, concerning unions, and the class conflict unions members have with capital.  We present John Garvey’s comments first and a response by a member of AS who works in both unionized workplaces and non-unionized workplaces. We encourage John Garvey to put forth any central documents that further outline his position on the unions to gain clarity on the matter.

 

John Garvey

Sorry for the interruption! Grandchildren interfered. Let me turn now to the unionized protective service workers. Their unionization rates all but completely are a reflection of their status as public employees and, in that regard, they are no different from other public sector employees–dependent, for the most part, for the quality of their contracts on negotiated deals with city or state elected officials dependent on union support. But, other than firefiighters because of their role as protectors of the existing state of affairs. unlike other public sector officials, they should be deducted from the numbers of unionized workers–making the overall rates of unionization even lower–for our purposes.

So, what does all this mean? I think it means that we should stop obsessing about unions–a reality that means almost nothing in the life or potential of the American working class that’s available for revolutionary politics. Why? First, only a tiny number of workers are in unions. Second, many of the members are older and not easily able to break with the circumstances that make their lives tolerable. Third, more than half of union members are in the public sector where, in spite of the battles of Wisconsin and Michigan, the members’ well-being is more dependent on support of politicians than anything else. And, furthermore, a whole lot of those public sector workers are cops and prison guards.What to do instead? Mostly, let’s learn a lot about what workers are faced with and what they’re doing. And let’s keep in mind that the end is the abolition of wage labor and the self-emancipation of the working class–a very distant dream in these dark times.

Response by Farabundo

Response: John Garvey begins and end his proposal with “let’s learn a lot about what workers are faced with and what they’re doing.” We are workers. No one in Advance the Struggle can live without working. By definition, we all have to sell our labor-time for wages to make a living. This implication that we are divorced from the working class is a faulty beginning. Considering only a small section of people we interact with, mainly retired people, don’t have to work, every person we engage with are workers. Everytime we talk with someone we know, we usually ask, “What have you been up to?” So we can get idea of they are doing. Our workplaces, which includes schools, hospitals, transportation, restaurants are both unionized and non-unionized. Some of us work as substitute teachers, both at non-union charters and unionized schools, making the issue of unions are real one. The biggest issue we face, is our comrades who agitate in non union workplaces who can be fired at will. We know this first hand because they have been fired for organizing. There was nothing we could do besides call a labor lawyer. Our organization is too small to be able to organize a wildcat when our comrades get fired. So the real world experience is our comrades do get fired at non union workplaces. Our comrades that do have union jobs, have much more real room for agitation and organizing. We can bring up concepts of class struggle in a much more real way. This also doesn’t mean we don’t talk about other non-union political issues with our co-workers. Every chance I get, I talk to my co-workers, who are school workers, and Oakland teachers, about social movements, class struggle in other countries, the role of violent and racist state, the real gendered violence that penetrates the streets, and how the class as a whole needs to move against capital. I also have similar conversation in non-union workplaces I work at. But when I do, I have to think, will this person tell the manager what I am talking about? If they do, I could get fired simply for that reason. As a result, I am more reserved, because I would like to pay rent, and eat food.

John Garvey wrote, “And let’s keep in mind that the end is the abolition of wage labor and the self-emancipation of the working class–a very distant dream in these dark times.”

For us, this is not a distant dream but a reality to work towards everyday. These days are not dark for me but very promising. Also, apposed the term “dark” to characterize something negative. Compared to the last 40 years, today is more favorable for class struggle and for the building of revolutionary organization than what we have ever experienced. The contemporary conditions of the working class are not good, composed of cynicism, poverty, anger, violence, rape, and despair. Our political work within such conditions gives us a revolutionary optimism, based off of the reality of capitalism’s brake-down and the possibilities of class struggle. Any militant who is concretely building revolutionary organization is experiencing a positive life-activity rather than a cynical despair. The problem with John Garvey’s politics on unions, is it eliminates the importance of working class organization. Every revolutionary should be building working class organization in some form, then we can debate its political content. But if we cannot agree that working class organization is important, then we surely will disagree on what type of political work to do.

There should also be total agreement that police unions and prison guard unions are organizations of the racist violent capitalist state. But the prisons contain almost the same amount prisoners, as industrial jobs lost in the last 30 years. Do you agree that prisoners should form unions independent of the guards and the prison structure to coordinate struggle? If you disagree with this, then we can clearly see we have serious political differences on the role of organization. This is similar to Theorie Communiste that argues any and all organization is part of capital. The first example against perspective is Marx’s first international formed in 1864. Marx was quiet aggressive in attempting to recruit whole unions to the first international. If you agree that some type of organization of the working class is needed in prison, among the prisoners, than we can begin to discuss what working class organization needs to be formed outside of prison. The two documents on unions we put forth proposes trying to transform existing unions into vehicles of class struggle, forming working class organization outside of unions, and transcending and or rupturing with unions during a working class uprising. Do you agree with the ladder two and not the first proposition?

Forming revolutionaries amongst the rank and file of unions, who, even though are only 14% of the workforce, include port workers, factory workers, truckers, airport workers, bus drivers, hospital workers and many more facilities. They are placed in strategic positions within capitalism. Unfortunately if 100 New York Taxi drivers go on strike, it doesn’t disrupt much of capitalism. Can you say the same for rank and file members of the International Longshore Association, who, recently were very close to going on strike? Taxi drivers on strike make a few people late to work, while New York, New Jersey Lognshore ILA members striking stops hundreds of millions of dollars of cargo a day. As a marxist, is there a material difference in the position these two groups of workers have with capital. Recently, Latino immigrant workers recently unionized in a small union in New York called the Hot and Crusty Association. This had ripple effects within the Latino immigrant community across the country, where in Oakland, we distributed articles and flyers about this union struggle. We thought it could help spark class struggle in the Latino working class community nationally. I was excited to read that they even won a hiring hall, meaning the workers within the union get to hire workers, not the boss. Now, John Garvey, would you support this effort of unionization? As some famous labor song asks, “What side are you on?” If I was in New York during this struggle, I would, without flynching, and in bold and proud language, be with these workers struggle for unionization. That does not mean I am a unionist. I am a revolutionary with practical politics in struggle, and studying the richness of marxist theory as a combined activity.

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19 responses to “On the Union Debate: A Reply to John Garvey

  1. I should begin by mentioning that the comment from me that’s included in this post was the second half of a two-part comment. In both, I ws attempting to provide my answers to questios regarding the composition of union members that I had posted earlier. Aram had asked that I do so. For the most part, then I was responding not directly to either of the two AS documents. Obviously, I believe that the answers do make a difference.

    I did not mean to suggest that AS members were divorced from the working class. I read the blog regularly and am familiar with, and deeply respectful of, many aspects of the group’s work. I, of course, know very little of the everyday interactions that individuals have with fellow workers. In retrospect, I should have made clear that my recommendation regarding learning what workers are faced with and what they’re doing was not directed at AS members as such but rather to the broader audience of people who read its web.

    Farabundo’s observation that unionized workplaces are, in general, more open for agitation and organizing. It’s a bit of a separate question though when it comes to doing. If and when unionized workers take action at work outside the framework of the contract or engage in wildcat strikes, the union apparatus is all but consistently opposed and acts accordingly–up to and including helping the bosses fire workers.

    Perhaps the use of “dark times” was a bit melodramatic–although what I think I was referring to what Farabundo describeds as the “contemporary conditions of the working class.” And I am certainly encouraged by the emergence of groups such as AS, the Black Orchid Collective, Unity & Struggle and the Fire Next Time Network. I am not cynical and I have not despaired and I do believe in the need for working class organization (I am not a TC fan).

    I haved written before, in the first issue, about the relationship between lost jobs and imprisonment and I would welcome and support self-organizing of prisoners, including a prisoners’ union. But the word “union” would mean something quite different from its meaning outside the prison walls.

    Finally, I do not think that it’s possible to “transform existing unions into vehicles of class struggle” that point beyond capital. That does not mean that what happens within unions, unionized workplaces or, most important, among union members does not matter. But, I think we should try to keep it in perspective.

    Hope this is clear!

    John

  2. Dear John Garvey,

    Thank you for your response. Farabundo asks did you support the Hot and Crusty struggle for unionization?

    In solidarity,

    Javier

  3. Interesting debate and I look forward to contributing more. In the meantime, I have a (not so theoretical) problematic regarding the example of the hot and crusty struggle.
    Farabundo said
    “Recently, Latino immigrant workers recently unionized in a small union in New York called the Hot and Crusty Association. This had ripple effects within the Latino immigrant community across the country, where in Oakland, we distributed articles and flyers about this union struggle. We thought it could help spark class struggle in the Latino working class community nationally. I was excited to read that they even won a hiring hall, meaning the workers within the union get to hire workers, not the boss. Now, John Garvey, would you support this effort of unionization? As some famous labor song asks, “What side are you on?” If I was in New York during this struggle, I would, without flynching, and in bold and proud language, be with these workers struggle for unionization. That does not mean I am a unionist. I am a revolutionary with practical politics in struggle, and studying the richness of marxist theory as a combined activity.”

    But what if the struggle was led by a non-profit organization (the form and content of which A/S has critiqued beautifully in the past) in combination with a revolutionary political organization that has politics that A/S may consider contradictory to growing a revolutionary struggle, and that it was through the influence of these organizations that the workers at hot and crusty (or a similar workplace) decided on a union form, and even became affiliated with the non-profit. Let’s also assume there was a small group of workers pushing for independent workplace organization that sought worker control, continuous struggle, and rejected a CBA in favor of a different form of organization that fought not just for a union, but over changes in the process of production itself, and fought to break free from the non-profit. Would A/S, or the author support the idea of the union, or the idea of the small group of militants? I ask this not rhetorically, but as an honest practical question for organizing, that many of us continually face as we struggle in non-unionized workplaces being mined by unions, and unionized workplace where we strive to build independent worker organizations.

    • JC asks, “Would A/S, or the author support the idea of the union, or the idea of the small group of militants?”

      This binary seems trapped in the logic of the Workplace Papers that the folks in STO wrote in the 1970s. While certainly these are useful and important documents, they also have seemingly lead many in the far left toward political ambivalence (at best) about questions surrounding intervention in unionized workplaces.

      I won’t speak for AS, or Farabundo, but for myself. As a worker in a unionized industry (I’m a high school teacher at a public school), I attend union meetings, help my co-workers break with their own spontaneous ambivalence about the union, and intervene within union spaces pushing proposals which are at once speaking to the interests and thoughts of a politicized worker, while also pushing these workers to the left. Bringing up systemic questions of austerity, police brutality, and pushing for forums and actions on such topics is one way of doing this. Another way is pushing for a less collaborative approach toward organizing our own contractual struggles – by this I mean breaking with the “team” concept and pushing us to be hardline in our negotiations with the school district. Additionally, I also push a line in union spaces that brings up the interests of other sectors – specifically students, parents, custodians, and non-unionized school workers. This gets a lot of traction with teachers who are becoming politically active in the union and outside of it.

      In addition to this, I also participate in a committee of education workers who are mostly after-school workers and non-unionized teachers. Without going into too much detail due to safety reasons, we are involved in organizing with students and parents to fight austerity and become politically educated through revolutionary study. This receives an equal priority as the union intervention.

      The question of choosing between intervening/building a union and building an independent workplace group/independent radical group is a false choice. We must do both. ONLY participating in the union misses out on a whole arena of political potential. NOT participating in the union (and by participating I mean intervening to push it to the left and not capitulating to the bureaucracy) means political ambivalence and missing out on politicizing a whole section of workers.

      I refuse to be incarcerated in a false dichotomy. I must also say that I have found little strategic value in any of John Garvey’s writings. Has he ever organized teachers, students and parents into a proto-soviet formation? Has he ever intervened in a teacher union? Or has he mostly been an administrator as SKS claims?

      JC, if you have a written critique of the Hot n Crusty situation, it’d be great to learn from it.

  4. [moderator note: we have edited this comment because it contained some unfounded accusations. We are not against questioning people’s political positions in relation to their institutional positions, but this should not involve ad hominem attacks. Rather, it should include evidence based claims. Saying “this is a fact” without having evidence is not a statement of fact, but a claim.]

    John,

    You spent the better part of the last three decades developing, institutionalizing, supervising, and getting paid for to break unions, break working class struggles, and break progressive educational transformation by the State and the para-State. This is a fact.

    How can we trust this is no longer the case? [moderator snip]

    This are valid, non-rhetorical questions. Before anyone can even begin to engage you, they should know your trajectory in life seriously calls into question the validity of anything you have to say, even the seemingly correct.

    It is a question of basic class trust. And a basic question of left security.

    As to who I am, I would reply that question to the administrators here, but not to you.

    That is how much distrust I have in you and your relationship to the State.

  5. Lets please discuss politics. Personal attacks are not welcome. Lets discuss the politics of unions.

  6. Comrades:

    JC wrote:

    “But what if the struggle was led by a non-profit organization (the form and content of which A/S has critiqued beautifully in the past) in combination with a revolutionary political organization that has politics that A/S may consider contradictory to growing a revolutionary struggle, and that it was through the influence of these organizations that the workers at hot and crusty (or a similar workplace) decided on a union form, and even became affiliated with the non-profit. Let’s also assume there was a small group of workers pushing for independent workplace organization that sought worker control, continuous struggle, and rejected a CBA in favor of a different form of organization that fought not just for a union, but over changes in the process of production itself, and fought to break free from the non-profit. Would A/S, or the author support the idea of the union, or the idea of the small group of militants? I ask this not rhetorically, but as an honest practical question for organizing, that many of us continually face as we struggle in non-unionized workplaces being mined by unions, and unionized workplace where we strive to build independent worker organizations.”

    In the United States as it stands today, there is no revolutionary struggle. There may be militant struggle, but nothing revolutionary, nothing close to what is currently going on in the Middle East and what is brewing in the southern peripheral states of Europe. Revolutionary organizing comes with a revolutionary situation which is beyond the organizing capacity of individual communist revolutionaries or even clusters of them located in various workplaces.

    I do not wish to speak for A/S. I will say as a communist who is sympathetic to their general political viewpoint that there would be no question on the matter. That in a revolutionary situation, the prerogative would be to transcend whatever limits there might be, and what meaningful communist formation wouldn’t want to see the unions or a progressive NGO be blown past?

    Regards,

    JD

  7. Javier,

    I disagree this is a personal attack – I am not claiming anything that is not truthful, I am not misrepresenting anything.

    John Garvey needs to answer this and other questions before he continues to be engaged by anyone serious about revolutionary organizing and about the theoretical and practical questions this entails.

    He was a Dean in CUNY, in a period that saw the dismantling of the last remaining gains from the late 60s and early 70s movements. His actions in this period were of support for the administration, and thus was rewarded handsomely. Being a dean is not a professional appointment made solely on competency or skill of mind, but on a proven administrative ability that entails hiring, firing, setting working conditions, and advocating for the institutional polices and implementing them in the area of competency. It includes being loyal to the bosses.

    Someone with such a background has no business in the revolutionary movement, unless they provide a full accounting and self-criticism of this crossing of the class line. Bosses are bosses. State bosses are State bosses. You do not reach such a position by playing nice and being a Marxist revolutionary.

    You reach such a position by having an adversarial relationship with the working class, implementing neo-liberal policy, and in general being unconcerned with the working class and its struggle for self-determination.

    This actual, material, position in relation to the means of production lays any single word Garvey says suspect ideologically.

    But, taking the money of the State for decades to directly repress workers makes him personally suspect. This is not an attack, its a material fact.

    Specifically, the State paid him money to directly and indirectly repress and oppress union members, to ensure their labor discipline, to destroy their lives by firing them – often without justification as part of layoffs and downsizing. He might or might not have like doing these things, but he did them anyways.

    Since he has experience getting paid repressing and disciplining workers, he has at best a vested interest to justify this by ideological means. At worst – and we have no evidence, but pose the question openly – he is still exercising the same repression by other means, and still getting paid for it.

    Once paid to scab, why not continue to be paid?

    This is a legitimate and valid question – not a personal attack. Garvey must answer for his crimes against the workers in CUNY. And he must prove he is no longer playing this role.

    Otherwise, this is fantasy land in which bosses become stalwart defenders of the working class by means of magic and pixie dust.

    “Which side are you on?” is not a personal attack. Its a question that the worker’s movement has consistently asked since it exists – even turned into song.

    John Garvey has to demonstrate and prove he has switched sides once again. One doesn’t simply walk into Mordor, one doesn’t simply stop being a boss [moderator snip].

    • this is just trolling. Being a dean at the city university is not “scabbing.”

      This is gross behavior. “sks” is a nogoodnik. This kind of baiting is destructive and dishonest. Comments like this should be moderated and the people who make them strongly discouraged from making a habit out of it.

  8. Hi all

    Perhaps others have figured these questions out. I suppose they will yawn. Fair enough. But this is where I am at with this discussion.

    Some broader thoughts.

    1. The class faces a profound crisis and so does marxism. That warrants deeper investigations. The mainstream currents of 20th century communism have been a bloodbath (against peasants and workers), filled with playing not the vanguard role in fighting for communism, but actually developing capitalism. We are not immune to either of these problems. These stand as shocking counterpoints to probably all the expectations communists had in the beginning of the 20th century.

    2. The Hegelian rift: Hegel and Marxism were tied together for much of the 19th and 20th century. But 1968 stands as a potentially game changing event where Hegel is challenged on multiple fronts: Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Le Febevre, and potentially many others created a new paradigm which has to be taken into account. I used to take fairly uncritically works by Perry Anderson, Aijaz Ahmed, and Alex Callinicos which attacked the development of post-modernism and post-structuralism. I believe I could have been widely off the mark. Very unclear, but I believe to be crucial.

    More importantly a return to philosophy is paramount. No discussion of that sort has occurred on AS. Philosophy is intricately tied to methodology. No discussion of method can occur without philosophy.

    3. A new generation of militants ranging from the Johnson-Forest Tendency, to Walter Rodney-Frantz Fanon, to the Situationists tried to tackle the problems of 1968. That was the last highpoint achieved. Their strengths and weakness have to be rooted back into the cycles of struggle and the development of capital.

    Forging a synthetic analysis of the 20th century cannot be trapped in Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg or any single moment or thinker. That will be the death of communism. We need a moving theory that projects into the future.

    What are the antagonistic and complementary threads which connects Marx to Negri today and everyone in between.

    4. The Archimedean Point: every cycle of revolution has created a version of communism. Paradoxically they have contributed and limited the development of communism. The major currents of course are Trotskyism, Maoism, Stalinism, council communism. Many smaller players also exist like Che, Fidel, or Nyerere.

    Each current out of the revolutionary movement became transfixed in time and place on that event. It gives them a certain permanence to see the world, but also no longer allows them to see the changes as sharply as they should. For example the world forever is a measurement of the Russian Revolution for Trotskyism. China 1949 and 1968 for Maoism.

    The lesson learned from Marx was that not only was he not transfixed on one moment or time but was able to see the developments of capitalism into the future. Lenin was able to do this as well and was able to strategically act on those developments in a way Marx could not.

    We do not need a communism for 2013, but for 2020. I have met no current which has transcended the limits of 1968 theoretically, let alone organizationally. That is the state of communism today. Capital is planning for 2050 and we are planning for 1917 or 1968. At this moment capital is more revolutionary then any communist current I know of.

    5. The discussions so far have not taken as their beginning the three volumes of Capital. What unions mean for workers today in light of those works.

    Nor has the discussions taken much account of the state’s relationship to unions and capital today.

    A moving theory of these questions are needed and no such account has taken place. There is no movement of the problem. Instead fixed moments are presented as eternal solutions.

    Random quotes in “biblical fashion” are replacing serious investigation. Marx said a,b, or c does not necessarily explain the world today.

    6. There have been no theories of the state or unions offered. On what basis is this discussion happening? The danger of these discussions are that descriptions can end up replacing theoretical and historical rigor. Ultimately that will lead to empiricism and at that point revolutionary theory/ movement will cease to exist if it does not already.

    7. Lastly individual experiences of workers while crucial, cannot stand alone as the complete verdict of a problem. What is the difference between radical sociology and revolutionary methodology. Our generation cannot tell the difference.

    8. What is the communist basis for these discussions?

  9. JC,

    Thanks for the description of your organizing work. But I have to say, the situation that’s described here seems not to add up. You’re saying that you’ve been doing organizing work for 2 years in a unionized workplace and both the established union and the individual members disapprove of what you are doing. In this time you’ve been getting moral support from people, i.e. John, who that union and the membership likely view as management (I mean, John seems like a nice enough guy and everything, but the dislike of admins as such in academic settings is generally quite intense, especially these days.) You describe your position as being openly (?) anticapitalist and to the left of the existing union.
    I guess I am missing something here-first, while I don’t want to pry, who exactly are you attempting to organize, and on what basis? second, what do you consider the relationship to be between wage, security, issues, etc, and political stances in a union? Finally, what do you see the long-term trajectory of this organizing project being from hereon out? I’m not asking these questions to be adversarial-quite the contrary- but rather because it might be useful to open up a discussion at some point about how the differences in the organization of work affect people’s relationship to that work, and how workers evaluate the claims of organizers.

  10. Will,

    I greatly appreciate the questions you ask. They elevate the discussion and I agree with your sentiment even if some of the philosophical questions you pose frankly go above my head.

    Im interested, as I’m sure others are, in how you can stake out at least a tentative position on this debate within the framework that you propose. I think itd be really helpful. Looking forward to it.

  11. Just over a month ago, some similar allegations regarding my work life and its influence on my political views were made by individuals involved in an effort to get a new group off the ground in NYC. In response to suggestions from a couple of other people involved, I wrote a brief account of my work and politics over a forty plus year period. What follows is a slightly edited version of that document.
    _______________
    I graduated from college in 1969. In 1970, I started driving a taxi in New York City. I did so because I needed a job and a friend had already started doing so. Six months later, I found myself in the midst of a strike called by perhaps the most incompetent trade union in America—the NYC Taxi Drivers and Allied Workers Union (Local 3036). At the end of the strike, taxi drivers found themselves the recipients of an enormous rise in taxi fares (which drove riders away) and a reduction in starting pay for new drivers and a new tax on all rides to cover benefits. At a general union meeting a few months later, all hell broke loose and the union leaders were driven from the meeting hall. Out of the crash of thrown chairs, an insurgent group was born—the Taxi Rank & File Coalition. (Some of the members of the Coalition, me included, have established a web site that collects many of its printed materials and some reflections—it’s at http://taxirankandfile.wordpress.com.

    For the next eight years, the group would consume most of my physical, emotional and intellectual energy. I think it would be fair to say that I was one of the political leaders of the group although we worked very hard to avoid having formal leadership positions. In fact, I think we sustained a remarkably egalitarian and non-sectarian political space for almost all of the group’s existence. At the beginning, we did what most rank and file groups did—we published a newspaper, we gave out lots of flyers, we called demonstrations, we ran for local office, we intervened at union meetings, we ran for garage committees (to serve as the equivalent of shop stewards). Over time, we did other, more interesting things—we organized May Day picnics, we wrote and sang our own songs, we organized a street theater demonstration outside of an art gallery (where a fleet owner was selling off a chunk of his collection), we published a booklet calling for a worker-controlled socialized taxi industry within an integrated transportation system.

    Throughout it all, I think we earned the respect of thousands of cab drivers (by way of example, I was elected the head of the garage committee at the single largest garage in the city). But, nonetheless, we lost all the important battles. By the end of my driving career, the union was weaker by far and the way had been cleared to transform the form of employment from a percent of the fare to leasing (wherein drivers pay, in advance, for the day, the week or the month and then take their chances at making enough to cover the lease costs and gas). That remains the situation today and it has shaped the form and content of organizing among cab drivers that emerged with the organization of the Taxi Workers’ Alliance.

    As the years passed, a few key differences within the group emerged but the lines of division were almost never consistent. Different ones of us found ourselves on different sides of many issues. For more than a few years, however, the differences did not result in breaking apart the group. The big issues concerned: 1) the contract; 2) the union; 3) political organization, and 4) workers’ consciousness. My own views could be briefly summarized as follows:

    • The development of contract unionism had all but eliminated the ability of unionized workers to engage in effective everyday struggles over the form and content of the work regime imposed by the bosses and that focusing our efforts on getting a better contract all but inevitably involved us in affirming the legitimacy of the renunciation of workers’ ability to act.

    • The problem with the union was not essentially that it was undemocratic and corrupt and in cahoots with the bosses but that, instead, it had effectively become an instrument to control workers rather than to challenge bosses (this was related to the terms of the contract (including the dues check-off which guaranteed the union’s income) and to the consequences of federal labor law; it was also very bound up with the reality that many of the union officials and staff quite obviously saw the union as the most readily available vehicle for their own social mobility and that, whatever their motivations, they would be reluctant to jeopardize their relative personal well-being.

    • A vanguardist model of political organization was all but completely wrong-headed. Not surprisingly, our group had attracted attention from the full spectrum of Maoist and Trotskyist groups then active in the city; I won’t bother elaborating on the differences between them; in spite of all those differences, they all embraced the notion of a vanguard party. At the beginning, I had been influenced by and recruited by the International Socialists, perhaps the best of the bunch, but even they were not enough to draw me over to the dark side.

    • The problem of working class consciousness was not adequately understood by the notion of “trade union consciousness”.

    These developments were prompted on the one hand by my actual experiences in the garages and elsewhere. They were also influenced by my encounters with other political groupings (not only the Leninist ones) and by my increasingly extensive reading in politics, economics and history—especially the work of the Johnson-Forest folks. I should mention that, for many of the years I spent driving, I could survive on three or four days a week of work and was able to use the rest of the time for a variety of political tasks.

    In 1976/1977, I and others in Taxi Rank & File had come into contact with the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO). I was almost certainly the individual most influenced by the connection and I developed a relationship with members and leaders of the organization that lasted a number of years—before the organization’s dissolution.

    As the Coalition began dissolving, many of us began looking for other kinds of work. People went in a variety of different directions—becoming automobile mechanics, machinists, nurses, EMTs, teachers, journalists. A few went to graduate school. I’ll describe what I did below. While many of us stayed in touch and continued to do common political work, our workplaces were not, for the most part, the center of our political lives. Some of us joined with other friends to form People Against White Supremacy (PAWS), a relatively short-lived group that did some independent organizing in Brooklyn communities but also did support work for a variety of black organizations—especially around the anti-nuclear movement that emerged in the wake of the Three Mile Island disaster.

    I also became significantly involved in the work of the South African Military Refugee Aid Fund (SAMRAF)—an organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting resistance to the South African war machine among white draftees and soldiers. That experience informed my writing of an essay on the “History of South African Liberation Organizations,” published in the London-based Azania Workerin 1986. It was quite critical of the ANC and sympathetic to the black consciousness movement. Many of the ex-Coalition members became very active in Central American solidarity movements. I was not as enthusiastic about it and did just a bit.

    I played a part in the efforts by STO to initiate the development of a new “tendency” which is described in Mike Staudenmaier’s book Truth and Revolution. Although the No Easy Answers Left Conference attracted a couple of hundred participants, not much came of the effort.

    By 1978, after our first child was born, I was ready to stop driving and did so rather abruptly. A short time earlier, I had begun working part-time as a tutor in a Writing Center at a CUNY college and began looking for other work in education. I applied to a newspaper ad for a part-time tutor in an adult basic education program at a city jail sponsored by what was then New York City Community College—in part because I was attracted to the political potentials of getting to know people behind bars. Much to my surprise, my former taxi boss did not give me a resounding recommendation (I believe he wrote something to the effect that I was “the worst employee” he had ever had). Fortunately, my employment application fell upon the desk of an extraordinary educator and long-time activist, who persuaded the college’s employment office that I had exactly the right credentials for the job. Soon afterwards, I entered the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue.

    At the time, I had no real plan about where I was going in terms of work except that I knew that I would eventually have to get a fulltime job. That was made more obvious still when we had two more children by 1983. I became the director of the prison education program that eventually operated in several of the city’s jails, including a very big one on Riker’s Island. I became very interested in the relationships between literacy and crimes and a whole variety of other social issues.

    For a variety of reasons, including the retirement of the dean who had approved my hiring, the college became a less friendly place to work and, in 1985, I left to go to work at the Literacy Assistance Center. At the LAC, my work focused on the development and dissemination of effective curricular, instructional and assessment strategies for use with students enrolled in Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language and GED preparation classes. I got to make a lot of connections with literacy researchers across the country and learned a whole lot—especially about how dreadful most educational practices were for the poor and members of the working class and their kids.

    In 1988, I moved to CUNY’s Central Office where I would stay for twenty years. Until the late 1990s, I was responsible for a number of projects including: the redesign of the University’s multi-campus GED preparation program so that it could effectively prepare students for success on the GED Tests and for success upon college entry; research and development work focused on the adoption and use of contextualized learning models for combining academic and vocational learning; the strengthening of the professional knowledge of adult literacy teachers about the teaching of reading; research and evaluation work designed to provide fuller accounts of the skills and knowledge of adult students and of the effectiveness of the programs they enrolled in, and the development of a special pre-college program for public assistance recipients.

    For the most part, I had a great deal of freedom to do what I wanted but the freedom came with the expectation that I’d be willing to take on a lot of responsibilities. At the end of the 1990’s, I was asked to oversee the expansion and strengthening of the University’s collaborative work. By the time I left CUNY, that work included: a system-wide dual enrollment program that annually enrolled more than 30,000 students from more than 300 high schools in a wide range of courses and other activities; the sponsorship of more than thirty affiliated schools, in partnership with almost all of the University’s colleges and including thirteen early college high schools, that cumulatively enrolled more than 15,000 students; a School Support Organization that, under contract with the New York City Department of Education, provided academic and administrative support services to principals and other staff at thirteen public schools; a college outreach and awareness project that provided academic support and advisement services to more than 2,000 students in thirteen 6th-12th grade schools; a full-time GED/college preparatory school for students who had dropped out of high school, and a multi-year professional development project that brought high school and college teachers together to improve writing instruction and assessment in both high schools and colleges.

    Finally, in 2006, I also became responsible for the development of The Teacher Academy. It was started as CUNY’s component of the NYC Partnership for Teacher Excellence (a three-way partnership between CUNY, New York University and the New York City Department of Education). The goal of the Partnership was to transform the preparation of teachers for work in the city’s public schools—with a special focus on math and science teachers for middle school and high school. The Academy, a program for undergraduates, was initially established on six of the University’s campuses but expanded to include three additional colleges, including two community colleges.

    The distinctive aspects of the Academy included: the shaping of all aspects of the students’ experiences around participation in a number of complementary cohorts (by year, by major and by fieldwork placement); the dramatic expansion and strengthening of school-based fieldwork for the Academy’s students–beginning in their freshman year; shared responsibility for the preparation of teachers among teachers and other staff in the schools and college faculty from the content disciplines and schools of education, and sustained curricular change in all relevant college departments.

    I was responsible for the overall coordination of the start-up of the new Academy and was subsequently asked to become the Dean. In that capacity, I was responsible for: developing and implementing Academy policies and procedures in cooperation with campus-based directors; leading the academic development of the new program in cooperation with faculty members; coordinating the University’s involvement with the Partnership for Teacher Excellence; overseeing student recruitment; coordinating the work of all Central Office staff with responsibilities for different aspects of the Academy; budgets and evaluation.

    In 2008, I left because the leaders of the University decided to shut down the Academy, ostensibly for cost reasons. Since then, I’ve done a lot of writing and advising on education projects—most significantly on the planning for two new schools in the Bronx that opened this past September.

    I took my work as an educator very seriously but I never saw my work as an being my politics and, while I talked and wrote about the political aspects of literacy/education and the educational aspects of politics, I saw my political work as lying elsewhere—from 1993 to 2005 as an editor of Race Traitor and, for the last few years, as an editor of Insurgent Notes.
    ___________________

    Subsequent to the circulation of the text above, several individuals signed and circulated a document that made additional allegations about me—regarding my views on education, my involvement in the planning for a new community college at CUNY, my views on charter schools and high-stakes testing, and my connection to the Annenberg Challenge—among others. Once again, I include a slightly edited version of my responses here.
    _________________

    1. As I thought I had made clear, I came to my views on the union question by the mid-70s and they have remained largely unchanged in the years since.
    2. Any allegation that I have contributed to the degradation of work is baseless.
    3. My views on education have, of course, been informed and shaped by my years of work–both before and after I became a “manager.” I think the first time that my work role fit that description was in the early to mid-90s. For the most part, my views have been informed by what I have learned from learning a great deal about public education in NYC (including through the years that my children spent in public schools) and by reading and, to some extent, independent research.
    4. Perhaps I should have made one thing clear. I make no claim about currently being a militant worker and if that precludes my involvement in this group, so be it. I have plenty to do. I would describe myself as a communist intellectual activist–although my activism is limited by age and extensive family responsibilities.
    5. It didn’t occur to me to include my work with CUNY’s new community college since it didn’t open for four years after I left CUNY and the initial group of faculty was hired after I left. But I have no apologies about that involvement. The main planning work was done by people that I had worked with for many years and I played a pretty active role. The new college was developed as an effort to see if it was possible to break out of almost forty years of failure at CUNY and most other non-selective public institutions–most importantly by developing an alternative to mostly idiotic and non-credit remedial courses for students who did not have well developed literacy and math skills. Failures in those remedial courses contribute significantly to very low graduation rates. The current system-level graduation rate for students enrolled in two-year degree programs at CUNY, after six years, is about 28%. It has remained almost unchanged for at least twenty years and probably more. Interestingly enough, in light of the allegations regarding my views on high-stakes tests, my most significant contribution to the planning consisted of a proposal to exempt students at the new college from really awful placement tests that CUNY uses to put students into remedial courses. Instead, my proposal enabled them to enter directly into credit-bearing courses. The design of the new college had nothing to do with charter schools. The charter school characterization was made by an education journalist who was looking for an angle. The model did not call for the extensive use of adjuncts. Currently, there are nineteen full-time faculty and several part-time math faculty.
    6. The initial faculty was hired after I was gone. I got to meet most of them once and had known one of them for many years. I haven’t seen her in quite a while but I do not believe that she thinks I bear any responsibility for what happened to her or the others. From a distance, I know that the situation was a mess. As to my being listed as a member of a Steering Committee, I participated in several meetings of that group in 2009. It no longer exists except on the web.
    7. The schools I have been working with are district public schools, not charters. The elementary school will eventually enroll about 350 students and the secondary school about 550. The organization involved in the school creation considered being a charter. I recommended that it not do so but, if it had, I would have continued to work with it.
    8. I have written more than enough on the reasons why schools fail so I won’t repeat my arguments for why funding parity is not the essential cure, nor why, sometimes, schools should be closed.
    9. On testing, I have never advocated for the use of high-stakes tests to evaluate teacher performance but I am not unequivocally opposed to the thoughtful use of tests. In the report cited, I wrote about the use of Regents exam scores to help kids, their parents and their teachers understand how relatively prepared they were for college. The Regents exams are not quite the same as other standardized tests. They were first introduced in New York State in 1885; I took many of them in high school. For the most part, they were developed by subject-area high school teachers–they were tests of content. On the other hand, the tests no longer possess the coherence they once had. In that same report, I provided an extensive critique of the ways in which the tests were being scored.
    10. The Annenberg Institute is not funded by the Annenberg Challenge and has no connection with Bill Ayers. It’s an institute at Brown University named after the same Annenberg. It has a satellite office in NYC.
    11. I have been in close contact with BOC on the teacher boycott in Seattle and elsewhere and strongly support it–although I think it’s worth emphasis that the initiators of the boycott were primarily opposed to the use of one particularly bad test, and not, so far as I know, to tests in general.
    12. In my first article on education for IN, I think I made clear my view on the relationship between the material circumstances of students’ lives and educational failure.
    13. I don’t believe that teacher control over the curriculum has anything to do with building class solidarity. It mostly has to do with preserving the full-time faculty’s privileges and prerogatives.
    14. I won’t defend CUNY–although I don’t think the description in the document is as accurate or nuanced as it needs to be.
    15. I have recently been working with some BOC members and a couple of people in this group on issues related to pedagogy for revolution and would be happy to share my ideas. I’ll let everyone judge about where my commitments lie.
    16. I do not think that “being is consciousness.” I think that “social being determines consciousness” but determination is not a mechanical process. It is essentially contradictory and fluid.
    In closing, let me repeat what I think I have said before. There is an ordinary leftism on unions and education. I think the authors of this document share most of its views–as do the leaders of the PSC and the UFT. It is a separate matter about how principled they are. Furthermore, I think that the issues at hand here are not so fundamentally different from those that were debated last year around the issue of the defense of the ILWU and its hiring hall system. See http://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/struggles-on-the-waterfront/#more-1473 for a summary. We need to confront the reality that there are fights within the working class that are as important as fights between the working class and capital. Those who don’t believe so are perhaps on the wrong side.
    __________________
    Finally, just to be specific about SKS’s charges, I never broke unions, broke working class struggles or broke progressive educational reform. I never directly or indirectly repressed and oppressed union members, ensured their labor discipline or destroyed their lives by firing them. SKS has no evidence to prove otherwise.
    As Javier has recommended, I do hope that we can return to a discussion of the issues.
    John

  12. Bossman John Garvey:

    Clearly, nothing you posted is contrary to what I put forth.

    You do omit the detail that what prompted you to write this opus to yourself, which was the discovery by some people who previously worked with you of this shady past, which you had hidden from them.

    The sense of betrayal these people feel at your mis-representation is deep. But it is up to them to confront you.

    I only know you as a polemicist on the internet.

    I will point out your irrelevant filler of your working class days only serves to highlight why I am correct:

    You crossed the class line. You were once, many moons ago, a member of the working class – in fact, before I was born and when I was a young child. Then you ceased to be one, also long ago, before some of the people here were born.

    Your trajectory, curiously, reads exactly like that of many former revolutionaries of your generation who became bourgeois politicians, union bureaucrats, NGO apparatchiks etc.

    The story is typical, even.

    I could name dozens of such stories. One poignant one is Jean Quan who was once a revolutionary communist, a third world nationalist, a people-of-color activist, and an advocate of national liberation movements world wide and in the USA. She gave all that up to pursue a political career as an elected official, something that requires “time in the trenches” of the NGO world in her particular neck of the woods. And she rose through the ranks. And she became an elected official. Even at this time, she still held some connection with the radical scene. She would participate in FTP work. She would engage socialists openly, she would be critical of other Democrats. Sure, already it was clear she was a run-of-the-mill reformist, but she was in the left. Then she became Mayor and the rest is history: repression of a popular movement so bad it makes Bloomberg seem pacifist and self-restrained. Sure, she didn’t personally shoot Scott Olsen, just like you didn’t personally destroy the lives of workers by firing them.

    Of course, we shouldn’t tell people not to seek to better their own families and their own lot in life. Clearly, that is their choice.

    But I refuse to accept the neutrality of these choices and think the revolutionary workers movement also needs to refuse the neutrality of these choices.

    When Jean Quan criticizes the Black Bloc “from the left”, we should laugh at her. When she ceases to be mayor, we shouldn’t suddenly consider her the revolutionary she was once. Its simple: your past is not erased suddenly upon retirement from the cesspool you swam to feed your family.

    Engels funded Marx with the proceeds of his exploitation of workers. But do so with a life-long commitment to support their liberation. Engels never justified the contrast – in fact, his first book is precisely about it. He never compromised his politics for money. He never took a political position taking into consideration its consequences to his family’s business. And he never misrepresented or hid his connection to capital from his collaborators (and Anarchists since did made this a central attack vector on Engels!). Engels never went to the working class and told them what organizational form to assume – he joined the organizations the class itself developed.

    Engels was not only transparent in this regards, but the lack of connection between his class position and business position and his politics is clear, proven, and above reproach – both at his contemporary level, and historically.

    You have not been transparent, you refuse to clarify your own relation to the State and capital, you refuse to even acknowledge why your trajectory is problematic. You lied to comrades in their face – claiming to be a taxi driver your whole life, or at the very least, creating this impression on them. You were dishonest about this trajectory.

    All the while this trajectory put you in direct contradiction with the forces you seek to critique from the left, but in a different contradiction, that from outside the class and in the service of the State and the government.

    I hope this clarifies why you as a person matters – not just the issues you want to discuss.

    Now to address your claim:

    “Finally, just to be specific about SKS’s charges, I never broke unions broke working class struggles or broke progressive educational reform. I never directly or indirectly repressed and oppressed union members, ensured their labor discipline or destroyed their lives by firing them. SKS has no evidence to prove otherwise.”

    Then you are the first Dean of anything in the history of CUNY (or in fact, any educational institution under capitalism) to have never done these things.

    You say I do not have evidence, but you provide the evidence yourself!

    Are we supposed to be be so naive, stupid, and moronic, so idealistic and trusting that we are to believe that you were named a Dean without having to provide your pound of flesh?

    That for decades you were a revolutionary agitator, and of the goodness of their heart – awe of your intellect and incredible persona – the bourgeois State (who are apparently idiots) picked you over more reliable choices?

    This is the typical excuse of those who are held for account for these trajectories – essentially, we have to take it on faith that you didn’t. Fideism is for priests, not revolutionaries.

    Its not about being guilty until proven innocent.

    Your guilt is proven and self-admitted.

    We are on the sentencing phase – you have to prove why you deserve anything other than complete excommunication from the revolutionary worker’s movement given the crime of crossing the class line and become an administrator (not merely an employee – but ideologue and bureaucrat and leader) of the bourgeois State.

    You are the one who has to prove that you didn’t do these things, both as Dean, and in the trajectory that led you to be trusted enough by the State in the form of CUNY to become one of their top administrators. Not the other way around.

    1) You claim:

    “I never broke unions broke working class struggles or broke progressive educational reform.”

    During the time period of you were a senior administration at CUNY (Associate Dean and Dean) there was significant union and student opposition to the way the programs you directly managed and were involved with, as well as general strife between the union and management, and students and management that you were indirectly involved as a senior administrator.

    You were deeply involved in the union-breaking CUNY Prep project, for example. You didn’t promote nor listen nor request community involvement. You supported the Regents, opposed the historic demand for open admissions, your views on remedial programs were at odds with the political demands of the student left (which, I will admit, has only recently began to gain steam after its SLAM heyday).

    You might frame your behavior differently, but in my book, when you are the one who helps hire and supervise the Principal and Director of a major union-breaking initiative, and part of your work entails working with the Mayor’s office (including a number of task forces) and the City bureaucracy to execute their widely panned and opposed plans at “educational reform”. You were part of the senior leadership – early on – of the Bloomberg led dismantling of public education.

    You even admit this. Yet, you try to diminish and distort this truth, why?

    Sure, the AFT and affiliates have been less than stellar in their opposition to neo-liberalism. But you are worse, you were an officer in command of implementing it.

    You dost protest too much.

    “I never directly or indirectly repressed and oppressed union members, ensured their labor discipline or destroyed their lives by firing them.”

    You were a senior administrator in a unionized workplace. You had direct and indirect reports who are unionized employees. In any organization like CUNY, part of being a supervisor is hiring and firing powers. Sure, this power is not absolute – there are check and balances, there are human resources people, there are union contracts to obey.

    But you supervise. You check attendance, you sign paperwork. You take part on the labor of being a boss. And a boss in a unionized work place is by definition an oppressor of union labor. You certainly fired people – its impossible you didn’t.

    Some people have no problem – in their liberalism, they do not see the contradictions. I do, and so do others. And this is why the issue is raised – to frame your trajectory in the correct perspective, that of the interests of the workers, and not your self-serving narrative as a boss.

    Because you were a boss. In a union workplace.

    Being a boss in a union workplace means precisely repressing and oppressing union members. By definition. By simply existing. Its part of the job. It part of what you get paid for. And when you fire people, you destroy their lives, no matter how gently you let them down.

    Of course, this is how the State works. You are not personally responsible for these things in the general sense. But in accepting these positions – that are not politically neutral – you became these things.

    Your intentions might have been noble – to help your family earn more money and advance the education of people. Your means were not from the perspective of revolutionaries – joining the State apparatus as a senior administrator.

    And your response only serves to deepen the belief that you are not to be trusted one iota: instead of admitting the obvious, you seek to deny and minimize it defensively.

    My and our trust is for you to gain in concrete action. You seem hellbent on losing it in concrete action.

    “As Javier has recommended, I do hope that we can return to a discussion of the issues.”

    No. We, the working class revolutionaries and allies can continue to discuss issues.

    You crossed the class line. You became the class enemy – out of your own choice.

    You cannot expect any serious revolutionary to give you credence without a full accounting with this past – and in particular, you make no transparent and clear exposition of your current and recent relationships to the State, the educational bureaucracy, and your economic stake on this.

    Discussing these matters with you without a real reckoning for the crossing of the class line you openly admit to having done, is irresponsible for any serious revolutionary.

    It is a form of liberalism that puts us in danger and allows people to act – for whatever their reasons – in the ways you did, without accountability.

    If you were arguing a point on anti-imperialism, or civil rights, or race theory, or even police brutality, that would be less relevant.

    But the work you openly admit to have performed is directly related to the efforts of the class enemy to destroy unions.

    You got paid to move forward, implement, and plan, specific measures of the neo-liberal State to break unions, not as a horizontal exercise in working class self-determination to adopt new forms of organization, but as an agent of the State, an educational cop.

    You were not “asked” to get a job – spare us the corporate decorum – you sought competitive positions which you got because you applied and competed for them. You were not a victim of your own success. This is not how capitalism works – it is not a meritocracy that rewards smarts with higher pay and position. It is a competitive market place in a zero sum game in which the climb to the top is lined with the carcasses of those you beat to the top.

    Again, your evasive response, refusal to be subjected to accountability, lack of transparency, and lack of honesty is the problem.

    This issue will not go away as easily as the pesky employees you probably fired in your tenure as a boss – or you also want us to believe that you are first boss in history to never fire anyone?

    Please.

    Ill put it to you this way: if your response were contrite, reflexive, self-critical, and denouncing this past – perhaps even being a cautionary tale to the younger generations, my attitude would be different.

    But there is none of that in your words. There is self-justification and hubris, smokescreens and cover-ups.

    And there is an open ideological attack on a form of working class organization that while flawed – deeply flawed – is a class institution whose debates should be self-determinatory. Destroying unions is not the goal of revolutionaries, self-emancipation is. If unions stand in the way of that, we shall burn them. But this determination is made by the workers themselves, not by a boss with a hobby.

    You were once part of the working class. Long ago, you ceased to be part of it. You forfeit the right to attempt to influence it in my eyes due to that change in material conditions.

    Broken clocks are right twice a day. This doesn’t mean we don’t try to fix or replace them.

    In closing, I want to draw your attention to two bits you wrote that I think says it all:

    “In 2008, I left because the leaders of the University decided to shut down the Academy, ostensibly for cost reasons. Since then, I’ve done a lot of writing and advising on education projects—most significantly on the planning for two new schools in the Bronx that opened this past September.”
    […]
    “The schools I have been working with are district public schools, not charters. The elementary school will eventually enroll about 350 students and the secondary school about 550. The organization involved in the school creation considered being a charter. I recommended that it not do so but, if it had, I would have continued to work with it.”

    This one divides into two:

    1) You make no mention – in the already familiar lack of transparency you show – about the nature, purpose, and strategic goal of these schools and the nature of your work in them.

    You do not even mention the name of the schools. How can we corroborate the nature and involvement if you withhold information?

    One perhaps could overlook this as a matter of trust. But you significantly damaged trust by misrepresenting yourself as a “taxi driver” and obscuring your work as an administrator and senior administrator in CUNY central office. Thus, you must do better than this.

    We can however guess at based on the information you give. You either work for one of the “small schools” or for a related project of “principal empowerment”. Or perhaps one of the renewed Career and Technical schools. All of which include significant aspects of diminishing union members ability to confront the bosses, and represent continued efforts by the private sector to profit. That some of this is done with various degrees of cooperation from the union bureaucracy only furthers the argument: you are hypocrite who on one side attacks unions for getting “privileges and prerogatives” for its workers, and on the other work in cahoots with its de-classed sell out leadership to ensure the bureaucrats’ own “privileges and prerogatives” remain intact.

    Perhaps based on your previous membership, in representation of the CUNY Chancellor, of the Mayoral Task Force on Career and Technical Educacation Innovation – another tidbit you forgot to mention:
    http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/91B215BF-21F8-4E11-9676-8AFCFBB170E0/0/NYC_CTE_728_lowres.pdf
    (please check the membership page)

    Name the schools. Or don’t do so and remain illusive and unaccountable.

    Even your very job – as a private consultant – is scaby, you are doing the work a public employee should be doing. That is the lesser crime, we all have to eat, but its no small potatoes in the context of your virulent attacks on public sector workers. You attack public sector workers, yet take their jobs for better pay. You have a financial incentive to attack their job security, dear boss.

    2) You state, unambiguously, that had they chosen to become charters, you would have still worked with them. Now, if you were a teacher or clerk, that would be ok. I am not going to tell a worker not to work a job – unless its cop and cop-related. But that is not your case. You are a high priced, credentialed, rock star in this world. A podium speaker at neo-liberal educational foundation’s events. You are a management consultant – not a worker.

    Thus, your hypothetical gains poignancy: you believe, as a professional, that charter schools are worthy vehicles of education.

    That in itself shows I am correct. Charter schools are the spearhead of capital doubling down, the roll back of the few gains we have as a class managed to grab. You want a future of charters? Look at Chile, where Pinochet invented them. That you support fascistic inventions is precisely a problem. If you were a working class militant, we would surely have long debates on this topic.

    But you are a consultant to this madness. A key cog in the machine of destroying public education and replacing it with Pinochet’s education. A key cog in destroying unions not from within the class, but from the class that unions stand in opposition to.

    Which creates the question, why? Why are you here, swimming among revolutionaries?

    Is it to inarticulate our ability to oppose the changes you support to education, to provide from the left an attractive voice that distracts us from militant practice and paralyses us from concrete work? All the while getting paid handsomely by the enemy for services rendered.

    Or a less sinister alternative, a hobby for a retiring old man who sees no prospects in actual revolution, and thus has no stake in its victory? Exactly what we do not need around.

    Take your pick.

    And then this gem:

    “It mostly has to do with preserving the full-time faculty’s privileges and prerogatives.”

    You mean educational workers whose “privileges and prerogatives” were hard earned results of labor-management disputes in which unions formed to struggle for these “privileges and prerogatives”?

    You sound like a right-wing radio jock talking about “union thugs”. Yes, union workers are privileged, but their privilege is a result of union struggle, not the other way around. Sure, these unions have become conservative, defensist, service organizations, but it was not always the case, and there is no reason to believe this will always be the case.

    That you speak with disdain about the gains and results of struggles of workers is the problem. Its scab talk if you are a worker, and its boss talk if you are not.

    If you had not made a career out of being a boss, you would perhaps be more critical of the “privileges and prerogratives” of administrators and other parasites in education. But since you are not a worker, you simply do not care, and instead, nakedly castigate them for the crime of being workers who want more for themselves.

    And the best teachers I have ever had did their best teaching when their “prerogatives” – those you disdain and for which unions fought – allowed them to open my mind to books and methods that would be considered verboten otherwise.

    This brings me full circle, to the beginning: your class position might or might not skew your politics. But the evidence is there that it does. Yes, “social being determines conciousness” is not deterministic nor is it static. But it is a real phenomenon, and in this case, the evidence is clear that your social being has determined your consciousness.

    The John Garvey that drove a cab would have never castigated the taxi drivers for their “privileges and prerogatives”. He would have fought cab owners, dispatch supervisors, the State, and scab drivers. He would oppose GPS tracking, piece work, outrageous medallion costs and monopoly, etc.

    The John Garvey of today treats educational workers – not the ruling class, not the administrators, not the scab educational workers – as the problem. He upholds charter schools as reasonable alternatives, high stakes testing as measures of accountability, the disempowering of teachers as workers and in the classroom, etc.

    The contrast is clear: social being determining consciousness. Not in an automatic, deterministic, and inevitable way. But in a practical, concrete, and unambigous practical way.

    You mention Race Traitor.

    I used to read it. I never agreed much with the focus on WSP but I always liked the wit and the dialectics (surely, a lot of it your own work). I specially liked the slogan and formulation “Treason to race is loyalty to humanity”. Well. Lets toy with it:

    Treason to the ruling class is loyalty to humanity.

    Be loyal to humanity… and show us you are a traitor.

    You are doing a very bad job at it so far.

    • this is absurdist ranting and totally dishonest. “sks” is trolling this site, engaging in what is either a display of mental illness or trolling to the point of being an intentional distortionist.

      I respect and often read advance the struggle. As a lurker, let me request that “sks” not be enabled in this totally destructive, unprincipled behavior.

      Is sks a part of a Advance the Struggle? Is there a reason this kind of dodgy crap is being posted? The site does have moderation rules, no?

      • Hi Year Zero,

        We haven’t had to have strict moderation rules in the past, so this new situation compels us to generate some. Please note that we censored some of SKS’ points on a previous comment. The pieces that were removed were claims that had no evidence presented to back them up. We’ll review this most recent post and determine what to edit out.

        Feel free to email us @ bay.strikes@gmail.com if you’d like to discuss ideas on how to moderate such comments.

  13. I think this link will help to clarify the questions around John Garvey’s past: http://alturl.com/8mm27

  14. Pingback: Weekend Roundup 02/23/13

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