NEW YORK CITY — In discussions with friends, I’ve often mentioned that the working class is living under growing fascist conditions, but some disagree. They ask, “Are storm troopers kicking down the door to your house? If not, then we don’t have fascism.”
But the ruling class doesn’t want to control the working class by kicking down doors all the time (although sometimes it does. see Shades of Hitler, p.7). Some control is more subtle, slowly adding more and more fascist conditions over time so we’re deep in the middle of it before we know what hit us. For communists, it’s important to fight such trends.
Throughout the country there is a rush toward replacing larger schools with smaller ones. Among my friends with whom I work in our school I’ve raised the idea that this move is really “creeping” fascism. In New York City, the Chancellor has mandated the closing of large comprehensive high schools to be replaced by smaller ones, as is happening in my school.
They tell us the large schools are “not meeting students’ educational needs.” Although our school was improving somewhat, the bosses say it “wasn’t improving fast enough.”
The attack has a distinctly racist character since the majority of the school closings are in predominately black and Latino working-class neighborhoods. Currently the bosses feel they don’t have enough support or soldiers for their wars and think that one way to change this is to win these youth in the schools, and in the classroom, to patriotic support of their imperialist adventures.
I told my colleagues the rulers are closing the large schools to maintain more control, especially in the classroom. The students are their main targets.
Fascism in Schools Has Many Forms
This strategy is fascist for several reasons. These small schools have fewer students (although the same large class size) and so needed staff is also smaller, which is much easier to watch and control than a larger one.
Few veteran teachers are hired at the small schools. Mostly younger, newer teachers staff them. The latter aren’t tenured and usually are on probation, blunting their ability to fight-back against attacks on students and staff. A “55/25” proposal — allowing a teacher with 25 years of service to retire at 55 without penalty — is being dangled before more experienced teachers.
Small-school principals have greater power over the staff. At one Brooklyn school a principal rated 10 of 40 teachers “unsatisfactory.” At another school, union meetings are practically forbidden. When some staff did call one, they were ordered into the principal’s office to explain their action. The administration more easily knows everything occurring at these schools, making organizing more difficult.
The greatest fascist danger at these schools is the change in the relationship between the working class and the ruling class. Communists believe that the class interests of teachers, students and parents are opposed to the administration’s (bosses’) interests. These small schools spread a “we” philosophy, the “we” uniting the staff and administration. If one doesn’t follow the principal’s goal for student achievement, that teacher is ostracized from the rest of the staff.
For example, many teachers in these small schools work hours on their own time, without being paid overtime. If teachers refuse, they’re labeled “slackers.” Teachers go along with this anti-working-class thinking unwittingly, furthering fascism’s talons in the backs of the workers.
The majority of these small schools are housed — up to three or four — in a structure that used to contain one large school. The building is carved up into different sections to fit each school, often leading to a fight for space. Students who happen to wander down the “wrong” hallway may be considered “trespassers,” subjecting them to disciplinary action.
The fight over space forces students to share the little existing space. Gymnasiums and cafeterias that once served one school must now accommodate up to four schools. This not only pits staff members against each other, but also student against student.
School Closing Is Attack
on Working Class
The news that our school was closing devastated most of my colleagues. Many have been there 20 years or more. For some, this was the only school at which they’ve taught. The immediate response was depression, then anger (usually toward the principal or other administrators) and then fear — from not knowing where they’ll teach next year, not knowing what will happen next.
Many might not recognize this as growing fascism, but this is how it “creeps” into our lives, with workers concentrating on where to go next rather than on organizing. As workers “adjust” and get used to this level of attack by the bosses, it only enables the rulers to go further. This move to smaller schools is an attack on the working class, not “just another change in the schools.”
As we fight it, we must win teachers, students and parents not only to see it as growing fascism, but also to understand why the rulers are resorting to such attacks — the better to control us and win the youth, in preparation for unending wars against imperialist rivals. Ultimately, only communist revolution can defeat fascism because its source: capitalism.J Red Teacher
(Series continues next issue)