Note of Camaraderie to our Sisters and Brothers in Struggle
On the eve of the first important day in the 2016 primary election cycle, we offer a draft, never before published but still highly relevant, from a high point of struggle during the last presidential election cycle. The Chicago Teacher’s strike of 2012 was an important moment for the struggle against neoliberal “reforms” to public education, as well as for the trade union and working class movement as a whole. As teachers in Oakland, California involved in efforts at building organization and struggle of parents, teachers, and students, we have been inspired and challenged by the solidarity that was demonstrated on the streets of Chicago during the strike, and we deeply respect the years of strategic work that went into organizing a base of teachers that was able to carry out such a strike. The experiences of Chicago have provided an example of a higher level of militancy and struggle than we have seen in decades.
CORE and the CTU deserve the most recognition for this. As part of this recognition, we wish to deeply engage and scrutinize the strategies that were used to carry out the preparation, execution, and follow up from the strike. Our engagement and scrutiny of these strategies comes from a place of wanting to carry forward at the highest level the struggle against neoliberal capitalist reforms from our location in Oakland; at times this will mean pointing out aspects of the strategy used in Chicago that we are critical of, while at other times it will mean putting forward some initial thoughts on alternatives grounded in our experiences in Oakland. We come from a humble place of respect and camaraderie with our sisters and brothers in Chicago, and we hope that our engagement and scrutiny is taken as a sign of respect for the hard work put into the 2012 strike.
Throughout the country we have seen repeated attacks on teacher unions; these attacks are occurring in the context of an all out assault on unions and working class people as a whole. From Madison to Chicago to Oakland and beyond we have see Democrats and Republicans carrying out legislation that seeks to undermine the gains that workers struggles and trade unions have won for their members; we refer here to seniority, health care, wage increases, and positive developments in working conditions. These gains have been achieved by the movement of working people getting organized formally and informally, in unions and without them at times. All of these forms of movement, organization and struggle are part of what we refer to as class struggle.
Eric Garner’s final words before being choked to death by police for selling cigarettes
Back in the 90’s Michael Jordan was asked if he would support Democratic Party challenger Harvey Gantt, who was running for a North Carolina senate seat against incumbent and strident racist Jesse Helms. Jordan refused and reasoned, “Republicans buy sneakers too”.
Fast forward 25 years to Lebron James demonstrating a similar ambivalence when asked to take a position on the racist police killing of Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice was twelve years old when police officer Tim Loehmann shot him in the stomach for playing with a toy gun; he could have been wearing the latest Lebron sneakers as he was murdered. In seven years, Tamir could have been Lebron James’ teammate.
Tamir Rice was 12 years old when gunned down by police
We would like to introduce you to the Advance the Struggle Free Education newsletter, an agitational tool we use at various campuses across the Bay to connect with school workers and students interested in engaging around the conditions and struggles of the education sector.
We welcome any feedback and encourage our friends and supporters to spread these widely!
Here is our first edition:
This reflection was written by a comrade of the Advance the Struggle crew on November 29th, a day after the Black Friday shutdown of the West Oakland BART Station. It was not published because it provoked some internal debate and discussion within our crew that we wanted to have prior to putting it out online.
We offer it here in its rough and unfinished form as an artifact of what some of us were thinking of in the beginning of the national rebellion against the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Riots, Freeways, and BART Stations: Reflections on How We Attack White Supremacy
The police execution of Mike Brown is not simply another example of black youth experiencing a state sponsored murder. In addition to the tragedy of another black life stolen by the white supremacist state, Mike Brown’s death has called into being a nationwide movement against police brutality. This movement has further impressed upon many people’s consciousness the delegitimization of the state that the murders of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and others have left. Further, the rebellions and direct actions that have been carried out by individuals, communities and organizations have demonstrated an expansion in the repertoire of resistance tactics that new and experienced militants are willing to carry out in order to disrupt the white supremacist capitalist economy and its racialized state.
So far, the two main forms of militant action that people have taken have been street rebellions characterized by informal, decentralized and evolving leadership structures as well as targeted direct actions featuring highly organized, formal and centralized leadership structures. The rebellions that happened in the streets of Oakland on the the three evenings after the announcement of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson were examples of the former, while the Blackout Collective’s shutdown of the West Oakland BART Station is an example of the latter.
Both sets of actions were successful in disrupting sections of the economy during the holiday season, inflicting high value damage to a capitalist economy during its peak season. Further, both actions played a role in developing the leadership capacities of young black militants, and secondarily other militants of color and white militants, though in very different ways. Reflecting on these experiences may help us to begin thinking through how we can build upon the successful acts of resistance we’ve taken, and move forward together in continuing our organizing operations.
Two days ago the battle to stop the destruction of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) took another step forward when a protest of 300 students and supporters of CCSF gathered in downtown San Francisco. The two principal demands of the movement at this point are for the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, to immediately intervene to stop all sanctions against CCSF by the ACCJC, and to immediately fire the “Special Trustee” dictator Bob Agrella who has been specifically appointed by the ACCJC to carry out their plan for the destruction of CCSF’s existing programs through budget cuts and privatization. They’ve undermined the democratic decision-making power CCSF professors had in running their departments and determining their curriculum, along with the community learning aspect that remains deeply rooted in San Francisco’s working-class culture, all in order to “reform” the school along the corporate, privatized education model: bloated administrative bureaucracies, underpaid and overworked teachers with weak or non-functional unions, a reduced and underpaid staff, and a severely downsized student body with the limited options of a streamlined junior college-type transmission belt to four-year universities for those who can afford the debt, or technical programs for the development of an elite managerial class separated and above the working-class people CCSF still serves. For proletarian communities of color in San Francisco, this is a gutsy frontal attack. If not resisted, it will relegate tens of thousands of youth to low-wage service sector jobs without the chance of social advance, such as fast-food chains; it will exacerbate unemployment and speed-up the gentrification process that has so drastically changed San Francisco from a hub of multi-national/racial working-class neighborhoods to the next chic destination for wealthy Silicon Valley professionals in the high-tech industry.
As of today, we’ve found out that the lawyer for the city of San Francisco, Dennis Herrera, has initiated legal proceedings against the ACCJC for breaking federal regulations and having conflicts of interest, and against the Board of Governors that oversees California’s community colleges because it has ceded its legal authority over standards and funding in relation to community colleges to the ACCJC, a private body. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the City’s announcement of this lawsuit comes a day after the protest and sit-in that we organized. We should continue to demand that the local state, and the mayor in particular, intervene against the attack on CCSF; this lawsuit and any possible actions on the part of the mayor are are possible only due to the self-organization of the students, teachers, and staff of CCSF. Now that the ACCJC is beginning to be delegitimized largely due to organized resistance, we are in a position to seize the momentum and expand the movement to put a definite end to the ACCJC’s reign of terror and take the struggle forward to expanding and improving the community college in the interests of the Bay Area’s exploited and oppressed.
Currently, the AFT 2121 leadership and a core of active teachers have expressed sympathy for a strike. The staff union leaders from SEIU 1021 have played a reactionary role by acquiescing to the ACCJC’s demands in hopes that teachers, who are actively fighting the ACCJC, receive the brunt of the attack while staff make it through this process unscathed. Rank-and-file staff have remained under the radar as they are unsure of the situation and know that their jobs are the most dispensable and likely to be cut. As of now, the major strategic orientation of the movement should be the activation of the student body; it is a sleeping giant. However, it is critical we begin to build links with the two other key sectors of the proletariat in education, the teachers and staff. While one important step is for teachers and staff to self-organize within but independently of their union, we need a concrete plan to reach out to these sectors as students to build the links and lay the basis for a unified class struggle that takes up the demands of all three. It is the social force of those who use the university that can be the backbone of the fight not only defend CCSF against its current round of attacks, but to be the organized body that can reconstruct and transform the CCSF we know now – a college that since the recession in 2008 has faced a total of $809 million in budget cuts, especially to lifelong learning and community programs that are not directly transferable to a four-year university or a technical profession, such as: childcare, ethnic studies, programs for ex-cons, seniors, and immigrants– and help change it into the people’s college that we want it to be.
Posted in Analysis/Theory, Bay Area Class Struggle, Raw Reflections, Resistance News
Tagged austerity, budget cuts, california, class struggle, education, Marxism, occupation, strikes, Students, Unions
For the past week, I’ve been glued to the television screen watching as much as I can of the George Zimmerman trial. Accused of second-degree murder, the state of Florida is prosecuting Zimmerman for racially profiling and then shooting to death African-American seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin. Since those reading this will surely be acquainted with this infamous and racially-charged event, I will only briefly recount the happenings of that fateful night.
On the night of February 26th, 2012, Trayvon Martin was on his way back to his dad’s home in a gated town home community in Sanford, Florida, in the central part of the state. Carrying a bag of skittles candy, a can of Arizona iced tea, and wearing a hoodie on that rainy night, Trayvon Martin was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood as the latter followed him in his car, suspicious of the young man because of the color of his skin and due to a series of robberies committed in his area in the previous months. The prosecution holds that Zimmerman needlessly followed and then provoked Trayvon into a scuffle that ended in the teen’s death at the hands of Zimmerman’s pistol from point-blank range. The defense has an easier road to follow; while the state must prove beyond reasonable doubt to the jury (9 women, 8 of which are white) that Zimmerman murdered Trayvon with “malice” and “ill will”, all the defense team has to do is sow enough doubt in the case against their client and uphold Zimmerman’s theory of self-defense. They’ve done this with some success. They’ve poked holes and sought to deligitimize every prosecution witness from Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon during the initial stage of his confrontation with Zimmerman, to the Sanford police investigator of the crime, and the medical examiner who diagnosed Zimmerman’s head injuries as essentially insignificant.
The trial in itself is fascinating in the way in which the opposing sides meticulously scrutinize every detail of the situation to reinforce their story. The media outlets broadcasting the trial routinely take breaks in which commentators of various backgrounds chime in and give their viewpoints on how the case is proceeding and usually betray their sympathies for the defense or prosecution. The entire spectacle is fixated on the whether George Zimmerman legitimately feared for his life due to Trayvon Martin’s aggression and employed his self-defense right to “meet force with force” (as the Florida self-defense law dubbed “Stand Your Ground” Zimmerman claims to have based his killing on states.). The defense seeks to build up Zimmerman as an honest and trustworthy American who fell upon an unfortunate situation that required the use of lethal force. Several of the defense’s 18 witnesses know Zimmerman personally and went on and on about his concern for his community, his work with small children, etc., all in an attempt to influence the jury’s perspective on Zimmerman. This strategy, for the defense, implies framing Trayvon as just another street thug, a good-for-nothing criminal who asked for what he got. They’ve honed in on his tattoos as an example of that, although when Trayvon’s mother took the stand she told the defense lawyer Mark O’Mara during her cross-examination that those tattoos were in honor of her and his grandmother. The defense rejects any accusations of racism against their client as they employ typical stereotypes of Black men to slander Trayvon’s legacy and justify his death.
What follows is an email that a comrade wrote to members of a political listserv that he is a part of. We offer it here due to the timely nature of the intervention around the way that we talk about Thatcher and her death.
Witch Side Are You On?
I dont intend to attack anyone for their word choice, but would like to raise a little bit of consciousness on this word choice of calling Thatcher a “witch” as a form of insult.
Margaret thatcher was the opposite of a witch. By referring to thatcher as a witch, one denigrates the real witches of the late middle ages (and other women whose independence was slandered by patriarchy as witchcraft) whose genocide (witch hunts) was intimately bound up with the subjugation of the new proletariat and colonizing missions.
The witch hunts culminated in a triumph for the bourgeoisie, in the form of a division of labor at the heart of which was a stark divide between productive labor and reproductive (domestic) labor. Workers outside of the home (predominantly men, but women too) were waged slaves whose productivity was under-valued through the fetishism of commodities (money hiding the unequal exchange of equivalents). Workers inside the home (exclusively women) were not paid at all, the most extreme fetish (illusion) this new capitalist order would produce. At the heart of this illusion that women’s domestic/reproductive work did not merit a wage, was the false belief that women are genetically prone to do this work for free as loving mothers and loyal wives. Male wage earners were given a position, imposed on them and enforced by law, of domestic overseer with all the tools of coercion they might need, from the right to rape to the right to beat “their” wives who regarded as dependents on the man. Thus the male proletariat was coopted by the bourgeoisie in a scheme to keep the total wage bill of that class half of what it should have been. In this sense, all of us male proletarians have a duty to honor our sisters as pillars of the class at every available opportunity. Part of that is learning the history of women as workers inside and outside the home. That history includes the heroic chapter of witches’ resistance to capitalism at the very dawn of its existence. [the book Caliban and the Witch is a good place to start – click here here here here and here for links to that courtesy of some good people in Seattle.]
Margaret thatcher was a traitor to her gender. Witches were the most loyal members not only of their gender but also of a far reaching pan-european anti-capitalist/anti-patriarchy movement from the 1300s-1700s, that is, during the period of capitalism’s maturation as a world system.
Death to Thatcherism!
Long live women’s liberation and proletarian revolution!