California’s educational system has been under attack from a combination of racism and the drive to maximize profits. Now the capitalist crisis is making it much worse, with a state budget deficit expected to top $8 billion. Republicans want to balance the budget by cutting education, health care, and other services. Democrats want “a combination of tax hikes and budget cuts.” This is a no-win situation for California workers, but liberal union leaders want workers to pay.
“If state lawmakers want to go for tax increases, they should focus on education,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle, citing James Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, which includes 245 of the region’s largest employers (including banks, oil companies, and war contractors). “It’s a good way to get the public to acquiesce to paying more.” (4/12/08)
That same day, a workshop at the Oakland convention of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) discussed “How to Talk About Taxes.” “We must … increase taxes. This workshop will analyze obstacles to convincing the public this is necessary.”
This “public” is overwhelmingly the working class. From 1975 to 1998, the income of the bottom fifth of Californians declined nearly 25% while that of the top fifth increased by 66%.
So why is a labor union doing the dirty work for Wunderman and his fellow bosses?
There’s a world of difference between the trade-unionist view of “labor” and “management” as bargaining partners and potential political allies versus the communist understanding that workers and capitalists are locked in a deadly class struggle.
The CFT convention gave lip service to the fight for “progressive taxation” but the truth emerged around a resolution to “support or sponsor legislation that would require the State of California to generate and allocate sufficient funds to education.” An amendment was proposed, seconded and supported to add the words, “without raising taxes on working-class families.”
Leading CFT’ers jumped up to object, claiming “taxes are the price of civilization” and “it’s hard to separate the working class from the middle class so this wouldn’t let us raise taxes on enough people.” Some delegates asked why workers should pay for a government that serves the bosses and a crisis created by their drive for maximum profits. The amendment was defeated, but the sharp struggle — which the leaders neither expected nor wanted — was itself a victory.
At a demonstration against the cuts in L.A. a few days later, when teachers eagerly took PL leaflets, one teacher said, “All of this could be solved by taxing the oil companies.” This is unlikely since Exxon-Mobil and the big coporations run the system. A revolution will eliminate the profit-hungry bosses who run these and all companies.
Most CFT delegates sincerely care about students, oppose the Iraq war, and want to promote “labor solidarity.” But without a communist leadership, they are being led into the hands of our enemies. For example, a video about the 1946 Oakland General Strike (which was smashed by the AFL Central Labor Council) claimed as a “victory” the formation of a coalition of labor and community organizations that channeled energy into the electoral politics of the emerging “cold war.” A presentation on the greatness of Franklin D. Roosevelt concluded with the idea that we should enthusiastically support the Democratic Party.
Delegates were urged to get 1% of their local membership to walk precincts for the November 2008 elections. We should aim to win 100% to become CHALLENGE readers! In contrast to the liberalism of unions like the CFT, the Progressive Labor Party today is working to win workers and students to fight cutbacks with the goal of turning the bosses’ attacks and wars for profit into a revolutionary war for communism. We invited teachers and students and parents to celebrate May Day with us and join our Summer Project!