Only an Indefinite General Strike Can Reverse the Fee Hike and Layoffs!
The University of California’s 33% fee hike is already having devastating effects on students. Adding to this catastrophe, layoffs and furloughs of university staff are set to be implemented on March 15, which is only 11 days after the planned “day of action” on March 4. Layoffs and furloughs have already been implemented against state workers. Attacks on medical benefits and direct cuts to social programs are also scheduled or already in force in California and across the nation. These attacks affect not only university workers, students, and faculty, but the entire working class!
At the statewide conference at UC Berkeley on October 24, attended by 800 students, educators and parents, the organizers claimed they would emerge from the conference with a plan to fight the impending cutbacks. But all they brought out of the conference was a date for protests – March 4 – which was set way too late to stop the fee hikes. They have no plan. Worse, they allowed the conference to end without any agreement on a program or set of demands to unite around! Instead, we left the conference with an amorphous agreement that cutbacks are bad and that we would all take action together on March 4, be it a one day strike, some other form of symbolic protest, or whatever is deemed possible by the activists at each campus. The conference agreed to forge demands at some point in the future at a conference in southern California at a date yet to be determined.
These delays in adopting a concrete program, in taking further action, and in asserting a fighting strategy disarmed the students, who had already suffered 33% fee increase without a coordinated serious resistance. Now, university workers still face lay-offs in mid-March, soon after a single “day of action” that is likely to prove entirely toothless!
One day strikes and even massive rallies at all the campuses will not stop the cuts!
We need to build mass democratic assemblies of students, teaching faculty, and workers at all UC, Cal State, and Community College campuses, to build for a united, statewide, extended strike action. We need to organize a real strike, enforced by militant picket lines to shut the universities and colleges down completely. Only that will pose the question: Who should control California’s public colleges and universities: corporate shills like the UC Regents, or the workers, faculty, students, and working class communities whom the public education system is supposed to serve?
At these assemblies, we should fight for the following demands:
1) No fee hikes, no layoffs, no furloughs, no cuts in programs, restore lost classes and programs.
2) For open admission with no fees or tuition. For remedial programs to advance those cheated out of an education in the failed K-12 school districts. Living expense stipends for students, to end the debt peonage system enslaving students to the banks. Moratorium on all student loans. For free quality education from day care to the highest level each individual strives to achieve.
3) Down with the Regents, Boards of Trustees, and school boards! For student, faculty, staff, and working class community control over the entire public education system, K-12 to graduate school.
4) JOBS FOR ALL! Share existing work by implementing 30 hours work for 40 hours pay. For a sliding scale of wages and prices to assure that workers earn enough to take care of a family.
5) Shut down the universities and colleges and keep them shut until our demands are met! For mass, well-defended building occupations by thousands of students across the state, to be maintained until our demands are met.
6) No tos ymbolic “day of action” protests in place of a real strike. For a militant strike enforced by mass picketing to keep out all scabs and shut the workplace down!
Let’s Remember What This Is Really About!
We are in the middle of a class war, and we’re getting our asses kicked. Blinded by Obamamania, the American working class was disarmed strategically by liberals, progressives, trade unions, women’s and civil rights leaders, who directed all our energy into the campaign to place a “centrist” with good street credibility in the White House. Obama is enforcing the crisis of capitalism on our backs. The White House, the UC Regents, the CSU and Community College Boards of Trustees, and the local Boards of Education statewide, as well as public education governing entities nationwide, are united behind the ruling class’s drive to starve public education and social services. Why? Because capitalism no longer needs an educated work force.
The current mess is the result of a systemic crisis of capitalism caused by the decline of US imperialism, coupled with the emergence of China as a new imperialist power, intensifying the inter-imperialist rivalry. The capitalists are desperate to offset an ever decreasing average rate of profit, which drives them to use the forces of production in increasingly destructive ways, with potentially catastrophic consequences for all who are sustained by this planet. To survive in the highly competitive environment created by the looming threat posed by China as a new imperialist power, American capital has to consistently drive up the rate of exploitation of labor power through a combination of advances in the technological productivity (putting workers out of work) and driving down wages. This is not because capitalists are “evil” or “immoral.” This is because they are the living embodiment of a unified destructive system with no morals other than the dictates of the blind markets and the drive to maximize the capitalists’ profit.
Hence the finance capitalists and their servants throughout the political system, from Obama down to the Regents, the School Boards, and even our own union leaderships, are driving to privatize one of the last remaining bastions of free, universal public services: education. They are pushing charter schools in the school districts, and privatization schemes at the college and university levels. Fee hikes and cuts in available classes are driving working class students out of the university system altogether. Even “middle class” students are finding out that they and their families no longer have access to the elusive American Dream, under which everyone who is willing to work hard is supposed to have the opportunity, through the public education system, to gain economic security and a comfortable standard of living.
The fake socialist leaders of the October 24 conference were afraid to presenting this kind of class analysis, stating who the culprits are and why we need to advance working class based demands. That’s why they took steps to ensure that the conference would conclude without a strategic class-based program or plan of action based on class struggle methods.
Unfortunately, because the October 24 conference did not lead in the direction of effective, coordinated, indefinite strike actions, small bands of students and supporters at various campuses felt impelled to substitute themselves for the needed immediate mass action and occupy buildings. Most noted in the press was the Wheeler Hall occupation, where the activists advanced important demands in defense of laid off workers and minorities. The fake socialist leaders could be seen running around willy nilly during the occupation of Wheeler Hall on Nov 20, having been upstaged by the students inside. The heroic fighting spirit, which landed many students their first taste of the policeman’s baton, has given this struggle national attention. Berkeley and the UC system are the focal point in what is poised to be the US center of the fight back against the onslaught of the capitalist crisis.
What will it take to win?
In the long run, confining the struggle to the issue of public education fails to address the broader attacks being waged against all working people. Only if we link up the struggle for public education to the plight of the 1.5 million public employees in this state, as well as the working class at large, and turn our struggle into a united fight to protect our class’s historic gains in wages, benefits, and social services, will we be able to stop finance capital’s across-the-board attacks on working people. Only if we take up the struggle of the 12-20% of workers who are unemployed or underemployed can we truly mobilize the community into a force that can smash the capitalists and the attacks the state is mounting on their behalf. Only if we forge links with every ongoing labor struggle (such as that of the hotel workers in San Francisco) can we build the type of solidarity, and fighting spirit, that will be required for us to win.
As a first step, we must apply solid mass strike action as we saw in France, Martinique, and Guadalupe last year. Students, teachers, and staff at all levels of public education – K-12, Community Colleges, CSU, and the UCs – must fight for united strike action, backed by solidarity with all public workers, to shut the system down until we win.
HUMANIST WORKERS FOR REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM
January 2010 www.HumanistsForRevolutionarySocialism.org • firstname.lastname@example.org Labor Donated