Rulers Streamline Schools to Get More Bang for their Buck
I teach at a community college in Massachusetts. Every year before classes begin, the administration holds an all-college meeting. It reveals the state of the class struggle at the college as well as the local bosses’ agenda.
The faculty and staff continued a pattern of passively colluding with management by failing to assert ourselves as a force with our own interests. The ruling class, however, is ramping up its agenda: competition among colleges, vocationalizing the curriculum, and winning allegiance of faculty and staff.
For ten years, the college has had an ineffectual president. Last Spring, in a bold move coming straight from the Governor’s office, he was fired. The new president seems to be a very efficient technocrat with a background in developing curriculum for industry. The first “challenge” she talked about was complying with regulators.
The state government will no longer tolerate “sloppiness,” which in the past, sometimes worked to the benefit of the students (i.e., waiving tuition/fee deadlines, allowing students to take courses outside of their major requirements). The new president is also moving full steam ahead partnering with industries (hospitality, health care, and transportation) to develop tailor-made academic programs and high school. This would enlarge the vocational mission of public high schools and public community colleges.
Invited as a special guest to the meeting was Matt Malone, the Secretary of Education from the Massachusetts State House, speaking directly for the governor and mayor. They take their marching orders from business think-tanks, like the Boston Foundation and the Business Council. In a very compelling speech, dramatically walking among us to break down the “us/them” walls, he said, “I ask for your hand as a team player. If we don’t do it here [inspire people to carry out the agenda] nothing else matters.”
Malone implemented changes that will help students “succeed in the global economy.” Privatizing is one way Massachusetts is desperately competing for investment as the national economy continues to slow down and more good-paying jobs are outsourced or replaced by technology. But if you want to really know what’s going on, “follow the money.” The austerity budgets allocated for the Massachusetts community colleges (a third less than in 2001) exposes Malone’s promises as empty for the vast majority of our students.
PLP has always said that it will be liberals who usher in U.S. fascism. Well, this is the change we were witnessing. One of the earmarks of fascism (capitalism in crisis) is the capitalist class more directly running the government. Another is centralization. As the crisis of capitalism intensifies, they can no longer tolerate the crazy-quilt chaos in their schools and colleges.
Streamlining operations to get more bangs for their buck is what the capitalists are demanding. To whatever degree education and critical thinking existed at the community college level, it is rapidly being transformed into training, pure and simple — narrow skill sets that serve industry.
Some faculty and staff were skeptical. This is good, but not good enough. As a group, we need to get clear that these ruling-class reforms are serious attacks on our students, and we can be a force that pushes back. We need a vision of a humane and equal world where workers’ lives are truly valued. Reading and writing for Challenge can help develop this consciousness among us.
A loyal reader
The Deception of Cuba
I was in Cuba recently and the truth remains sad to witness workers’ lives. I am aware there is no socialism, yet I expected to see a better life, more so after Fidel and his party assaulted U.S. imperialism.
Sexism is rampant. Women sell their bodies , but not as openly as in other capitalist countries. Workers’ wages are laughable, as it only covers very basic needs. The means of production are not used in the interest of the working class, therefore there is unemployment.
Racism is a given under this system. Workers suffer discrimination and some are entitled to almost nothing. The food is for the tourism sector, and eating meat or selling it lands you in jail. Workers and families who do not belong to the party are also discrminated against. Far from having recreational facilities, they don’t even receive funds to improve their homes. Their homes look like ruins, contrasting with the neighborhoods of politicians.
Talking to several workers in Cuba revealed they are dealing with the capitalist nationalist discourse. They do see it is very difficult to change their situation. Also, the cult of personality of Fidel Castro has led them to believe that Fidel has lost power and authority and thus the revolution has deviated because of its leaders.
Workers in Cuba are generally interested in politics and are less influenced by capitalist ideology, but are influenced by music. They are very friendly and have a great sense of family unity and camaraderie among workers. Leaving Cuba is almost impossible due to costs and bureaucratic obstacles.
I talked to some, explaining that we must fight for communism. I introduced them to PLP. We have a program that our class should organize society and rule our own destiny. Revolution will be made by us, the working class, not the usual opportunists. The Cuban revolution since its inception made too many mistakes — wages, the market economy, the division between manual and mental labor, and failure to destroy the capitalist state.
I gathered workers, asked them to recognize our ideas and they must work to organize millions here and worldwide to destroy capitalism — that is what workers in Cuba need.
Red Colombia Worker
Editor’s note: The problems described by the writer — racism, sexism, prostitution, wage differentials — are among those endemic to state capitalism, which is what now exists in Cuba. Its source stems from, among other things, the Castro leadership following the Soviet example of socialism, which retained much of the baggage of capitalism, such as the wage system with its built-in divisive differentials, along with the cult of the individual in glorifying Castro. While some of its reforms produced advances like its medical system, the absence of any fight for communism left it with the only option of trying to reform capitalism — an impossibility. This led it to openly encouraging a cardinal element of that system: private property and profits and all the ills that they produce.
Applying Dialectics A Complex Task
I am concerned about the letter in the 9/18/2013 issue of CHALLENGE that criticizes the editorial in the 9/04/2013 issue. The letter-writer claims that the editorial violated a principle of dialectics that the internal is primary. Specifically, the writer felt that the current war in Syria was/is “caused” by the Syrians, themselves, rather than “outside” forces such as the U.S. and Russia. The writer bases this judgment on the extreme poverty of the majority of the Syrian population and the incredibly harsh and atrocious character of the government.
It is certainly true that the Assad government is a brutal dictatorship of a small number of wealthy Syrians dominating the vast majority of the population. At the same time, I don’t believe there is a viable communist movement in Syria that is leading a rebellion. In the absence of such leadership as well as the refusal of the “rebel forces” to embrace even socialist reform, let alone communism, it seems clear to me that this conflict is another in the long line of surrogate wars between the U.S. and one or another of its capitalist rivals, in this case Russia.
This does not mean that the principle of dialectics that the internal is primary is wrong. In the long run, this principle is quite correct. In the case of Syria, a communist revolution will not occur until the vast majority of the populations (the internal) understands and supports communism. However, in the short run, the capitalists (both “domestic” and “foreign”) now have the power to impose their will on the working class. As a result, right now the external capitalist class is the primary factor in the Syrian conflict.
Of course, our Party’s response to this is to INCREASE the fight for communism, not wait until “things get better.” In fact, the only way that “things will get better” is if the struggle for communism continues, during the “good times” as well as the “bad times.” Applying the very general principles of dialectics to a particular situation is never easy. It is incumbent on all of us to be aware of this and to help each other learn how to apply it.
Bosses Are Masters At Defrauding Workers
Here is a perfect illustration of the way capitalism works. The bosses and their government never stop finding ways to enrich themselves while exploiting the workers.
The 50 workers at the brickworks in Remchi, Algeria, a town of 47,000, haven’t been paid for three months. After appealing in vain to the local and national authorities, they blocked the highway to publicize their situation. Still no official response.
The brickworks was privatized on the cheap in 2004, with the complicity of the local and national authorities. The purchaser never paid more than $91 million of the $916 million sales price. At the time, the factory employed 150 workers.
The boss ran the factory with no respect for the workers’ health and safety. His only aim was maximum profits. He never paid his taxes, nor his suppliers nor his gas bill, which now stands at $85,500 for natural gas and $49,000 for electricity. He now lives in neighboring Morocco with his stolen wealth and the factory has been shut down for six months. The workers, with families to support, have nothing.
No wonder the only solution is communist revolution.
A Friend in France
Lessons of the Movie Salt of the Earth
We watched the 1950’s movie “Salt of the Earth” on the bus ride from Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn to Washington, DC to attend the memorial for the famous 1963 March for Jobs. The hospital workers on the bus, mostly black women, were really impressed by the many stories in it. There was lively booing and cheering as the miners’ wives were put down because of sexist stereotyping in the ‘50s only to rise up, win the day and change their husband’s ideas with their successful and militant picket duty.
In our year-long and continuing struggle to keep Downstate open and stop layoffs, we are up against the might of the whole power of the state in New York, stemming from Governor Cuomo on down. In the movie we saw practical applications for the working class.
Cecilia: “it was great when, after the judge made it illegal for the miners to picket, the women and children took over picketing for months and organized even in the jail, despite early objections from their husbands. Nothing could stop them, from beatings to injunctions. It showed me that we need to show more of these kinds of movies on these trips to build up our spirit.”
Georgia: “it was so good I want my son to see this; he needs to understand this history.”
Violet: “it shows how evil the managers are and that the worker’s struggle was really life and death in the mines. Conditions today are getting worse and we are heading towards that period of working conditions. We are nearly back there.”
Mimi: “The movie was REAL. It showed that our working-class progress in last 50 years is so slow it can be measured in nanometers. Minimum wage has fallen behind. The bosses are still oppressive. The struggle must go on and we must muster the spirit and tenacity to keep up the fight. The movie was uplifting and educational. I will watch this movie again and recommend it to teach that we can win if we unite and fight.”
Red hospital workers