LOS ANGELES, June 15 — Students at high schools across this city walked out against racist budget cuts, carrying picket signs teachers had put up on their classroom doors, to protest the rulers’ Board of Education’s layoffs and increase in class size.
Obama called for “shared sacrifice” in his inaugural address, and lauded “the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job.” On May 27, LA Mayor Villaraigosa said, “Given the unprecedented economic downturn in California, everyone must share in the responsibility and sacrifice to bridge this budget deficit.” But neither of these bosses’ servants said the bankers must share their profits.
This idea isn’t new. For years, autoworkers were told a pay cut would avoid job losses. They’ve taken pay cut after pay cut, and then lost their jobs as well. That’s the way a profit system works.
Given the state budget crisis and virtual collapse of the union leadership in the wake of the May 15 injunction, teachers may be forced to take a pay cut “to save teacher jobs and class size,” but will probably wind up with both a cut and layoffs.
The fight continues with picket lines, community camp-outs and other actions. But the reluctance of teachers to strike against the injunction indicates our class must gain the confidence to defy the union leadership. The teachers and students fighting together against the cutbacks has been an inspiring example of working-class unity. Most important is the increase in CHALLENGE readers, five youth joining PLP, more meeting with the Party and distributing CHALLENGE. In this crisis, the working class’s main victory is the growth of the communist movement.
We communists believe in sharing scarcity as well as abundance, and we believe that the working class can be won to this communist idea. While the willingness of many teachers to take a pay cut in the belief they will save jobs and prevent class size increase might be an example of the collective spirit of the working class, under capitalism “shared sacrifice” is a lie and a trap.
Workers’ militancy should be used not to negotiate their wages and conditions down but to fight to up the ante of class struggle. The hypocrisy of a system that gives $750 billion of workers’ taxes to super-rich bankers while they squeeze predominantly black and Latino students into larger and larger classes must be exposed. Then they cut teachers’ wages to boot! In this capitalist class society, it’s always the working class who sacrifices and the rich who live off that sacrifice.
The German poet Bertholt Brecht wrote in “A German War Primer” in 1938:
“Those who take the meat from the table preach contentment.
Those for whom the taxes are destined demand sacrifice…
Those who lead the country into the abyss call ruling too difficult for ordinary men.”
Capitalism is in a deepening crisis. The U.S. is isolated internationally, fighting an imperialist war on at least two fronts, leading the international global market into decline and attacking workers to pay for this crisis. Millions are losing their jobs and homes. The only government expenses not being cut are their war expenditures, the police and the prisons — the infrastructure for the war and fascism which is the capitalists’ main hope of surviving this crisis.
Clearly capitalism cannot provide a decent life for the working class. It must and can be overthrown and replaced by a communist system based on collective work, collective planning, and real equality (not socialism which retained money, banks, and wages, with the latter’s differentials splitting the working class). Eliminating the exploiter class which lives off the profits it squeezes from workers’ labor will release the potential for workers to reap the full fruits of the value that they, and only they, create.
Every struggle must have the long-term strategic goal of building the communist movement that can seize power from the bosses. The class struggle has crucial lessons to teach us how to get there. Three wildcat one-hour work stoppages built the unity, militancy and resolve of teachers, students and parents, independent of the union leadership. Student walkouts throughout the district, fighting for their own and their siblings’ education, build their potential to fight for the working class.
This is a victory the Board of Education can’t take away — the unity of parents, teachers and students; the experience of confronting the district, the Mayor and the banks; seeing our potential to unite against the bosses and their racist system; and the growth of PLP.
Read CHALLENGE. Participate in our PLP Summer Project, where students and teachers, soldiers and industrial workers will reach thousands with our newspaper and spread communist ideas.