Last week marked a “Week of Action” called for by the California Teachers Association which was supposed to call attention to the “State of Emergency” which public schools are in. Students, teachers, and workers from across California were supposed to engage in the week of action, which was to include an occupation of the state capitol in Sacramento as part of a Wisconsin-esque challenge to austerity measures directed towards workers.
Now, if you’ve been part of any of the anti-austerity movements on campuses in the past few years, you know that the question of directing protest towards Sacramento has been contentious. Many have called out the “go to Sacramento” route as being a means to diffuse anger directed towards local institutions of the state’s power structure (university administrations, local school boards, etc) and re-direct it towards the institution that supposedly has the “real power.”
While many of us here have definitely been partisan towards fighting where we’re at – building walkouts, strikes and occupations at the point of reproduction – we were interested in seeing what this “Week of Action” in Sacramento might generate in light of the developments across North Africa and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, it seems that the union bureaucracy played a predictable role, as outlined in our comrade Jack Gerson’s piece below. He critiques the “short-term/long-term” strategy used by the union (not to mention many activists in general) as a cover for simply capitulating to the austerity program of the ruling parties – both Democrats and Republicans.
What will it take to develop a revolutionary program that seeks to issue meaningful demands that speak to the needs people are facing, while at the same time challenging the state power structure and calling our organizational and revolutionary attention to the fact that the bourgeois state will never meet our needs as workers? Jack’s piece reminds us of the glaring inadequacies of protests confined within the parameters of the union officialdom and reminds us of the need to develop left-wing challenges to their co-optation strategies.
The California Teachers Association ‘Week of Action’… What The Heck Was Going On In Sacramento?
Jack Gerson – May 19, 2011
On the evening of Monday, May 9, 2011, 68 Bay Area college students, public school teachers, and their supporters chanting “Tax the Rich! That will fix the deficit!” were arrested for occupying and refusing to leave the state capitol building in Sacramento, California. Although this happened on the first day of a “Week of Action” called by the California Teachers Association (CTA) to protest cuts to state funding for K-12 education, CTA leadership walked away from the occupiers and literally pulled CTA members out of the Rotunda, saying that the protesters were “not on message”. Oakland Education Association (OEA) secretary Steve Neat, one of the arrestees, described it thus:
One of the May 12 arrests outside the offices of Republican leaders in California’s state capitol, Sacramento.”CTA leadership had the perfect opportunity to join a group of students and teachers fighting for real long-term change with direct action. They were very conspicuous by their absence. In fact they left and tried to usher CTA members away when we started chanting ‘Tax the rich!’ I guess that wasn’t quite on message enough.”