Teachers of the World Unite!

I’m still in Uni, but I’ve been contemplating becoming a high school (A levels and GCSE for you brits) teacher. I was curious what folk’s thoughts were on anti-authoritarians, anarchists, radicals etc. in the education field? The knee jerk reaction of most “anarychists” is to attack anyone that’s a teacher, because well, they’re”brainwashing” the kids and “telling them what to do.” Though I disagree. In many ways I think organizing in the teaching sector is as paramount as organizing in the military, in that it can serve to subvert fundamental functions of social control in a number of ways. Here’s a semi detailed list that I’ve come up with so far.

1. Secondary Education is the prime tool in the indoctrination of future workers and young workers into a system of hierarchy and exploitation. This is where we take young idealistic children and turn them into little automatons. Thus it’s important to have educators that utilize a radical pedagogy. By this I mean a classroom that encourages critical thinking and dispels various social myths. They can stop most of the “official story” from ever getting into these kids.

2. Anarchist educators can provide organizing resources to their students. They can hand down hard learnt lessons of organizing and struggle to help kids set up mass organizations and campaigns centered around student and youth concerns. Draconian security? Exhaustive standardized testing? Well, then its time to get those kids a “Troublemaker’s Handbook” and help them fight the power!

Any kind of collective action at that age can build up a sense of confidence in both the student and in young folk’s ability to make collective change. I know that when I was in high school, not long ago, our main problem was that we had no conception of direct action struggle. We funneled our frustrations into advocacy, or small subversive propaganda groups. I tried both, neither worked.

3. Education is a huge industry, growing by the minute. Capital is demanding higher and higher levels of qualifications for ever more menial jobs. Education is an industry we are sure will exist for the indefinite future. It’s not getting outsourced and it’s not getting any smaller. A strong network of anarchist and radical teachers can affiliate with other militant workers in the education sector, building real industrial strength. This not only builds class consciousness and militancy, but creates a mutually beneficial relationship between students and workers. Workers strike to help students walk out, and student riot to help workers picket. Most importantly, it sends a clear message to young folk that class struggle is universal and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

4. Teachers get a long summer vacations every year. While a radical teacher could use this time for leisure, tutoring for extra money, travel etc. He or she could also use it as a resource for the class structure. Teachers are specially positioned to provide the volunteer hours necessary to build up new projects, and to support ongoing struggles.

I’ve often thought of creating a network of alternate summer programs for working class children. Something like a radical day camp/youth center. It would be structured on the Modern school movement of Francisco Ferrer. Children would self manage the curriculum, devoting learning and play according to their own wants and needs. With our summers free, militant teachers could provide the critical mass to get this project off the ground. Of course just providing extra bodies on picket lines, meetings, and other day to day needs of any people’s struggle, is a great advantage in and of itself.

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Kasama This! or Boy the RCP is Wierd!

Over the past couple of days I’ve been reading Mike Ely’s “9 letters to our comrades.” It’s a long polemical response to Mike’s former comrades at the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It’s real interesting stuff, not because it offers any new and amazing insights into the task of revolution and building a new society, but because its good entertainment. Before I get into it, let me give ya a short history lesson so you know the background, because without the background, it’s just no fun.

In 1969 Students for a Democratic Society, the group that personified 60s student radicalism, split at their national convention. The conventional history is that you had a split between the national office faction headed by the future Weathermen, and the cadre of the Progressive Labor Party. A whole lot of people were disgusted with both and walked off anyway. But we forget that the Weathermen faction wasn’t one faction, it was two different groups, united to defeat the PLP. The third faction was another Maoist group headed by student activist Bob Avakian. Bob’s group was all about the black panthers, Ho Chi Minh and National Liberation armies, but he didn’t want to start a terrorist campaign. So each group went their separate ways. Avakian’s people eventually turned into what we know as the RCP.

The RCP is absolutely devoted to Bob Avakian. Bob Avakian is their lord, savior, messiah and prophet. He is bringing communism “to new heights” in the world and the “cardinal question” for all serious revolutionaries is whether you’re behind him or in his path. I quote

Revolution in the U.S. is needed… and it can happen. The path, the road, to this has been pointed to, and it is being forged in practice, under Bob Avakian’s leadership…Extraordinary leaders like Bob Avakian are rare; they are precious to the advance of humanity; they must be cherished and defended.

Even if Bobby Boy was a competent revolutionary who had built a mass movement, this sort of personality worship is just fucking stupid. You can’t build a movement to liberate humanity from their rulers if you already deified your fearless leader. But Avakian is no god, he’s not competent, he’s not even half competent. He’s a dingbat. The man is the offspring of an Eisenhower appointee federal judge, and has lived in self imposed “exile” in France for almost 30 years. Why? Well he faced heavy jail time back in 81, he fled. All charges were dropped a year later, but Bob still thinks the bogeymen are all out to get him!

So in comes Mike Ely, one of the founders of the party, and he writes a nice clear critique of the deranged house of mirrors that resides within the RCP. And yet his polemic doesn’t make any real kind of break with Maoism, its just rehashed authoritarian nonsense. He states his support for Lenin claiming that “If Lenin had died in 1914, a communist revolution would not have taken place in 1917 Russia.” He has no trouble with revolutionary hero worship, just the kind of hero choosen. Mao figures prominently throughout all of the letters, posited as the legitimate communist compared to Avakian’s “deformed” Maoism. And that’s rather sad. People like Mike have been through the ringer, the RCP demands its cadre to avoid all forms of fun (drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual promiscuity etc. He comes out so battered and yet all he can do is grasp at Maoist straws. Its almost as sad as a telenovella.

Welcome to the Wall Street Casino and Resort

I think it’s funny how everyone pays so much attention to the stock market and yet we know so little about it. The stock market is not an indicator of the health of the economy, not for real people at least. The stock market is an indicator of the speculative investments of a very wealthy few and the mutual funds of the poor schmoes trying to save for retirement. The stock market doesn’t really mean anything, its gambling with an MBA. Now some will argue that the stock market keeps companies honest, that it reflects their value and performance, while providing the necessary capital to keep them going. To some degree, yes this is true, but not really.

The stock market only represents the perceived value of a company. The perception of a company’s profitability is never its actual value. A company’s stock will go up and down according to the whims of stock traders. If they feel like a stock is worth more, they’ll buy/sell high and visa versa. Why they feel this way, doesn’t matter. Often it doesn’t correspond to reality. That’s why we have things like market crashes. Folk buy up stock on the assumption that they’ll keep going up. Not because the company is actually worth anything, but because investors think they can sell to the next guy for a higher price. That is until the bubble bursts and there’s no one else to buy the stock. A stock market bubble is essentially a pyramid scheme; the new guys fund the profits of the old guys till the whole thing falls apart.

What’s worse is that the stock market doesn’t really apply to you or me. Its health is never our health. Corporate stocks go up when profits go up, and raising profits is often accomplished through unsavory means. When GE lays off a thousand workers, it’s stock shoots up 2-3 dollars at least. New labor saving technology cuts costs, boosts stock and undercuts labor’s bargaining power. If a logging company chops down a national forest, then the money rolls on in. We all suffer from increased environmental destruction, but hey, DuPont’s up 3 points!

The media’s fascination with the stock market demonstrates its upper class bias. They don’t really care about the little people. If they did, more journalists would talk about unemployment, gentrification, and all the not so fun symptoms of a healthy stock. But they don’t, because the news media, especially the business media, is owned and controlled by 5 large corporations, staffed largely by relatively well off reporters and driven solely by profit motive. It’s a bit different at the local newspaper where reporters make pretty modest salaries, but those newspapers aren’t in the business of investigative reporting, corporate HQ wants to make money, and stories like that could only upset advertisers.

It’s all part of a growing and willful ignorance amongst most of the population on all matters of economics. Few people, let alone the reporters themselves, notice that capitalism today isn’t about making things anymore. That’s not where the big money is. Most investment today is in speculation. Now that may involve speculation on productive assets like companies and land, but its still speculation. The problem with speculation is that it doesn’t add any value. At least industrial capitalists build stuff and develop technologies. But speculation is just blackjack with much higher bets, an exclusive casino for the ultra wealthy.

The danger is that over speculation isn’t only unproductive, it’s also incredibly risky. Imagine the economy as a line on a graph, going up and down in a cyclical stable line. Well, the more speculation you add, the deeper and longer those bumps and troughs get. Speculation doesn’t create value, but it is very good at creating volatility. The reason is pretty simple, if you have 50 people trading a stock, its range isn’t going to differ that much over a day or a week, there’s only so many people and so much money. But if you had 50,000 people, you could generate wild fluctuations. Those are the fluctuations that cause a Black Tuesday or an East Asia crisis. If you don’t know about the East Asia crisis, basically around 1997 a bunch of currency speculators drained most of the capital out of the region in a matter of weeks. Factories were sold off piecemeal, bank after bank collapsed, there was hyper unemployment. It wasn’t very fun. Especially when it cascaded into Russia, causing the ruble to crash and eviscerating any gains those poor folk had managed to claw out of the capitalist “shock therapy” of 1992.

Obviously we’ve got a bit of a problem here. We have an economy built on speculation and it’s ready to blow. The cracks have already appeared; in fact they’re fissures at this point. The housing bubble was built on speculation and that has come back to destroy several large mortgage companies (Countrywide is a good example). Fuel prices continue to skyrocket. Why? In the long term its lower supplies and increased demand from India and China. But that’s not the case right now, actually right now its oil speculators bidding up the price and hoarding oil futures because they’re anticipating that increased demand. Food? Yeah that too, in 2004 there was 15 billion sloshing around the food commodities markets, now it’s 150 billion. Of course there are many other problems, but speculation is one of the root causes for about every economic calamity we’ve got right now.

This is dangerous, because speculation is not the cause of people’s problems. Capitalism, oppression, exploitation are the problems. But during these depressions and panics certain sections of the ruling class, the industrialists and the small time owners, start to wax about the power of the “evil bankers.” They start saying that all of you disaffected industrial workers are loosing your jobs and your way of life to that evil transnational banking elite. And we gotta ally together to fight those dastardly bankers, and secure the health of the nation, which only grows more powerful through the strength of industry and the hard working values of traditional heartland folk. If you haven’t realized, this is what we call fascism, add some comments about “jewish bankers” and you get Nazism. During times of capitalist crisis the industrialists and other capitalists co opt parts of the working class, usually the more disaffected, conservative sections, and then brutally assault leftist/revolutionary working people. There’s a reason why Hitler called it “National Socialism,” he actually brought some workers along with him. However Hitler did wipe out the more “socialist” elements during the Night of Long Knives. But hey, I’ll take a dead Nazi however I can get em.

Anyway, before this gets too meandering and silly, let me sum it up. Speculative capital is bad, and it is going to cause another recession, if not another depression sometime soon. The problem is we cannot allow conservative reactionary types to derail working folk into some sort of right wing, neo fascist movement. When the shit hits the fan, we need to articulate a vision that is revolutionary and makes it clear that speculation isn’t the problem, but a problem, a symptom of the larger disaster known as capitalism and hierarchy. Getting rid of speculation won’t end layoffs, wage cuts, racial hatred, etc. It just strengthens one section of the rulers against another.

Bloody Cynics: Why Struggle is a Logical Response

Well I just finished talking to a friend of mine and as usual he proclaimed his inherent rationality for knowing that “people are apathetic and stupid, and just follow whatever leader suits them.” Apparently I’m a naïve idealist for thinking that the revolution will ever happen and that collective struggle can change people’s lives. This got me thinking. How do we justify organizing for the long haul? Well I think there are a couple things to consider.

Old timey StrikeFirst people fail to understand that building a revolution isn’t some one off deal. Revolutions are built when small struggles blossoming into a bouquet of popular intransigence. We’re trained all our lives to hate and fight our fellow humans. Collective organizing is an act of unlearning that training, bit by bit inch by inch. With every small victory, we change the lives of those involved. They learn that desperation and survival aren’t the only options, and they too are people worthy of equality, freedom, happiness. In short they find a sense of dignity. Our struggle, even if it never sparks a revolution, at the very least makes lives worth living.

So many of us live lives devoid of purpose, or worse, delude ourselves into some collective pyramid scheme like the Catholic Church. Mass struggle gives us an answer that doesn’t involve buddy Christ or buddy Jack Daniels. When Camus asks us why man doesn’t commit suicide, revolutionaries have an answer. While others drown themselves in drugs, alcohol and sermons, those in struggle can live without anesthetizing themselves. Unlike my “rational” friend, I can go through life confident of what I’m supposed to do. There’s no existential angst, no “why are we here!” nonsense.

Now to get back down to less highfalutin language, let’s just look at the facts. Direct action gets the goods, simple as that. The Labor movement didn’t bring about a socialist utopia (yet), but it did stop children from working in mines, or loosing their limbs in industrial looms. The civil rights movement didn’t end the exploitation of black working class folk, but it did help end most of institutionalized racism. I’d say both of those things are worth fighting, even ding for on their own merits. What’s great is that these worthwhile everyday struggles are all part of the revolutionary project.

A revolutionary movement is really an evolutionary movement. It’s a slow, long slog through victory and defeats. Slowly but surely, we can change the world. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass at times like this, with forests of revolution cut down by raging fires of repression. But with all fires there lies a few seedlings, germinating in the ashes. Give it enough time and enough energy, and those seedlings of rebellion will overtake the world.