CHICAGO, July 15 — A growing anti-war sentiment filled the ranks of the 3,000 delegates to the biennial American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Convention here. However, the union mis-leadership, which pretends to be “anti-war” and has backed anti-war resolutions, undermines any member attempts to organize against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less the capitalist system which causes them.
The AFT Executive Council presented a resolution to make the “spread of democracy and human rights in the world a major tenet of American foreign policy.” It urges the AFT to “increase funding for programs to assist pro-democracy organizations, political parties and workers organizations that are struggling in opposition to repressive regimes.”
A delegate countered that the U.S. has a sordid history of promoting U.S. corporate interests in the name of “democracy and human rights” while supporting repression of workers and student movements in countries allied to the U.S. A second delegate explained how the U.S. CIA had overthrown the Mossadegh government in Iran when it nationalized its oil, and in the 1980’s had encouraged and assisted Saddam Hussein to attack Iran resulting in a seven-year war where over one million died.
A major goal of outgoing AFT Pres. McElhenny and incoming Pres. Weingarten is continuing to lead union members into the arms of the Democratic Party.
Hillary Clinton was an invited speaker and Barack Obama spoke later via a satellite hook-up. PLP’ers distributed hundreds of CHALLENGES and issued three Party leaflets. We explained that both the Democrats and Republicans represented parties of capitalism and imperialist war. Another leaflet analyzed the role of the public schools under capitalism and exposed the so-called school reform plans that various sections of the ruling class are advocating.
Our literature was well-received by the delegates. We had many productive discussions with members of our delegations as well as with new contacts from other locals. These kinds of ties are important and we’ll make a serious plan to follow them up.
One of the convention’s bright spots was the development of the AFT Peace and Justice Caucus. The Caucus broadened its discussions to include school-based issues as well as anti-war issues. In four programs rank-and-filers gave presentations about the problems in their schools and the fight-backs over them. Anti-racist and internationalist sentiments were strongly expressed.
The Caucus has good potential but contains major contradictions. At organizational meetings some felt the AFT leadership can be “worked with” and even “pushed to the left” by progressive rank-and-file forces. But opponents of that view, including PLP’ers, see AFT “leaders” like Weingarten as firmly in the bosses’ camp. These “leaders” are staunch anti-communists and supporters of U.S. imperialism. In fact, in her inaugural address Weingarten said that sometimes when she doesn’t know what to do, she thinks, “What would Al say,” referring to Albert Shanker, former long-time president of the UFT and AFT.
PLP’ers remember well Shanker’s support of the U.S. rulers’ imperialist invasion of Vietnam and his organizing racist boycotts against parent involvement in NYC public schools.
(Next issue: From Shanker to Weingarten — Supporting U.S. imperialism.)