Tag Archives: education

Education, not Imperialist War!

The strike of 30,000 school teachers and education workers in Chicago is the necessary response to the attacks that students, teachers and parents have been facing for years.  It’s significant that the strike is happening in Chicago, which is the Ground Zero for fascist “educational reform.” That has the full support of the democrats and AFT president Randi Weingarten.  The charter school movement, school closings, increased testing and “data driven” teaching, the new evaluation measures, and the budget cuts have all been forced on the mostly black and Latino school population. This is clearly racist. But the working class is pushing back against these attacks in a way that we haven’t seen in 25 years.

“School Reform” Is about Control, Not Education!

 These endless changes forced down the throats of students and teachers nationwide are more about disciplining us than education.  Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top and the drive towards standardized curriculum and testing is part of the bosses move to win the hearts and minds of our students to fight in their expanding imperialist wars.  School reform in Chicago has shown it’s racist nature from the mass firings of veteran black teachers from schools that our students never deserved, discipline policies that force our students out of school and the hiring of young white teachers into schools that are still setup for failure.

Many of the reforms involve micro managing what teachers do while giving them less and less support, supplies, etc. Obama’s team of Rahm and Duncan has shown their true colors in the dismantling of public education and their attacks on the labor movement. The ruling class in this country wants to use these reforms to crush the spirit of teachers and control the schools for the needs of the capitalists.

Money for War, No Money for Schools!

These attacks are necessary in a system that is based on the wealth of a few and the exploitation of the many, CAPITALISM.  So, while thousands of anti-racist teachers take to the street fighting for decent schools, dignity and the respect that education workers deserve billions have been spent on imperialist wars.  From Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan to propping up US military bases all over the world.  As long as the bosses are in power, we will face continous wars for profit –only a revolution for communism, workers power, can bring us the changes we need!

(More on the history of communists in the labor movement in next leaflet-Volume 3.)

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Humanitarian Imperialism in Uganda

The US is taking virtually the same paternalistic posture towards Africa that Victorian Britain did. Imperialist Britain was so racist that they considered their mass murdering attacks that colonized the  African and Indian peoples to be a civilizing force.  The US, like Victorian Britain before it, doesn’t care about bringing democracy or values, it only cares about padding its pockets and selling the war to its working class.  The savage truth is that wherever there is a direct clash between US and Russian/Chinese imperialist interests, a “humanitarian crisis” occurs there. Yet, capitalism itself is a humanitarian crisis. How many workers in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are killed by US drones and cluster bombs? Or directly by US soldiers having a bad day?  Who has killed more children, a Ugandan strong man or Obama?

Though once of great concern to governments in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, primarily Uganda, the LRA exists today as a low-level insurgency. The LRA is estimated to have only 200-300 fighters, and the group sustains itself by recruiting child soldiers during unsophisticated raids with machetes on villages in northwestern Uganda and the nearby corners of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The Joseph Kony campaign media blitz that was all over Facebook has already drummed up the popular support needed by US imperialism to invade a nation that has “Newly discovered oil reserves around Uganda’s Lake Albert”.  Yup, billions of barrels of oil that is just now starting to be tapped.  You could already see the dollar signs flashing on the little black and green hearts of the world’s capitalists.

“Stratfor believed that the United States had exaggerated the threat posed by the LRA.” Why would the Kony 2012 video go so viral so quickly? If the united states didn’t need a humanitarian cover to gloss over their insatiable lust for oil and resources.  Obama, willing servant of US capitalists, and bosses are no strangers to using Ugandan workers in their imperialist wars. As they used Ugandans in their wars of conquest at only a fraction of the cost that they paid to US soldiers to do the same potentially lethal jobs.

Though Kony is a terrible human being who deserves to die at the hands of the working class he exploits, how is he any worse than the US’ personal thug Haitian President Martelly who attacked his own college students in their university, smashed whatever he couldn’t steal, and basically destroyed their ability to get an education as he instilled the kind of fascist terror that the racist US bosses call business as usual in Haiti. 

The US fascist attack on workers closes hospitals, creates homeless workers, cuts to Medicaid, attacks special need children, yet they have the absolute hypocrisy to point the finger at small time dictators like Assad and patsies like Joseph Kony!  Yes, they are terrible bad people, but the only reason that they are targets by the US is because they’re somebody else’s terrible bad people.  Super thug Rahm Emanual is basically assaulting students’ educations in Chicago, US capitalists are plotting how to close more hospitals and limit health care (see the letters section in the 3/14/2012 Challenge), European capitalists are destroying whole lives in Europe, and yet we’re supposed to only concentrate on one particular bad guy?  The whole system of capitalism has to go, root and branch.

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2011: Crisis-driven Bosses Attack, But Class Struggle Alive and Well

The events of 2011 served to remind us of two important aspects of capitalist society. First, the bosses of the world, caught in a sharpening struggle against their rivals and a spreading financial crisis, always have their knives out to assault the working class. Attacks intensified against our jobs, education, health, homes and families. The myths of democracy, fairness and opportunity for workers were exposed by a worldwide reality: we live under the bosses’ dictatorship. The past year made clear that regardless of national boundaries, no matter the “race” or gender of the boss, the ruling class will eagerly consign workers to hell on earth for the smallest gain in profit.

The ultimate expression of the boss’s callousness to sacrifice the lives of workers is imperialist war, of which there was no shortage in 2011. The U.S., still the main capitalist power in the world, continued its racist massacres in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in hopes of securing the Middle East’s oil and natural gas. Without the growth of a new worldwide communist movement, the prospects for 2012 and beyond are not much better.

While the U.S. remains the dominant power, other rivals, most prominently China, are gaining power — militarily, economically and politically. This challenge does not go unnoticed by the U.S. ruling class. The recent announcement by President Obama (the Nobel Peace Prize winner) that U.S. Marines will be stationed in northern Australia, alongside the recent diplomatic overtures to Myanmar, which borders China, signal a future where direct military conflict between the U.S. and China will be increasingly likely.

But the deadly maneuvering of the ruling class is only one side of the story of 2011. The second lesson, clearly visible from a quick look back through the pages of any of the bosses’ newspapers, is that workers are not meekly accepting these attacks. Class struggle is alive and well.  The list of places where large-scale rebellion rocked the bosses this past year is a long one: Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, England, France, Greece, Israel/Palestine, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, the U.S., and more.

To advance the cause of communist revolution, the international Progressive Labor Party has joined and led some of these militant struggles. In the pages of CHALLENGE, these battles and many other reports of class struggle were presented with a communist analysis.  If we are ever to defeat the murderous bosses and end their reign of terror, the working class must transform these narrow reform struggles into a fight for the working class to take state power — a fight for communist revolution.

The International PLP Advances

In New York City, the working class took on the racist Department of Education and its plan to impose Jim Crow-style segregation at the John Jay Campus high schools. In Israel/Palestine, a Summer Project participated in the fight against racist evictions and the housing shortage gripping workers there. In Haiti, we struggled to help rebuild a shattered society with communist principles of international solidarity and equality.

PL’s Summer Project in Haiti included a “Freedom School” for the discussion of communist principles. “Serve the working class” became more than a motto; it was put into practice when Party members created a clinic to serve the medical needs for Haitians in tent camps. The racist health care system was also a focus for comrades in the U.S. In New York we fought against the racist closing of Brookdale Hospital. Comrades and friends in Philadelphia fought to prevent the firing of a trusted hospital coworker. In Chicago, where hospital bosses tried to give patients a death sentence by transferring them to a decrepit facility, PL and others fought back.

Chicago was also the battleground for the heroic efforts of students and parents (primarily mothers), supported by the Party, to prevent the racist closing of the Whittier School library. Providing an example for the Occupy movement to follow, the parents (primarily mothers) and students at this majority Latino school, supported by the Party, seized the building and renamed it “La Casita.” For nearly a month, they held off the racist dogs of the Chicago Department of Education from carrying out their plan. Our comrades helped in many ways, from medical care to overnight guard duty. All the while they pointed out that whether we won or lost this particular battle, the bosses would still have state power. Our job is to fight not only “our” bosses, but bosses everywhere.

In Pakistan and Bangladesh, communists infused labor struggles in garment factories and universities with a vision of a society based on need rather than profit. In Mexico, where flooding threatened to destroy a community of 200,000 people, the Party explained that if our communist predecessors in the Soviet Union could move entire factories over the Ural mountains in three months during World War II, we could protect their city — if we had state power.

In these places and others around the world, CHALLENGE was ever-present. It consistently hammered home the point that it is only when we take on capitalism itself — when we transform battles against corrupt dictators, greedy bankers and fascist school boards into a world-wide communist movement — will we achieve workers’ liberation.

Arab Spring and Wall Street Occupy Working Class’s Imagination

Perhaps the most significant expressions of working-class fight-back were the upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East, collectively dubbed the Arab Spring, and in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a worldwide rage at the inequality of wealth that is the hallmark of capitalism.

The Arab Spring began with a rebellion in Tunisia that followed the self-immolation of a desperate young worker. But the uprising was fueled by a 13% official unemployment rate (about 30% for youth), skyrocketing prices for food, and political corruption. Similarly, in Egypt, while the bourgeois media focused on Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the struggle for “democracy,” the real battles were over rampant unemployment and the price of food. Strikes at Egypt’s textile mills, pharmaceutical plants, chemical industries, the Cairo airport, the transportation sector, banks, ports and the Suez Canal are the primary source of revolutionary optimism.

Workers throughout the world cheered on scenes from Tunisia and Tahrir Square, which makes the outcome of these battles all the more painful. In Egypt, ruthless dictator Hosni Mubarak was first replaced by a ruthless military and now in addition by the even more ruthless Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (see CHALLENGE, 10/19). In Tunisia, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted and elections were held in October, but unemployment still crushes the youth there. This is the essence of reform struggles. However militant it may be, any struggle that fails to attack the entire capitalist system will simply replace one set of bosses with another. For workers, the promise of a new society has been met with the reality of continued joblessness and misery.

Nonetheless, the international working class proudly looked on as workers in Tahrir Square held up signs reading, “We are all Wisconsin,” a reference to the 100,000-strong protest against the attack on public sector workers in that state. Months before anyone occupied a park near Wall Street, thousands of workers occupied the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin.

Just as in Cairo, however, the brave workers of Wisconsin have been misled, this time into backing electoral politics and the Democratic Party. In the midst of this struggle, the Party brought forward the idea that both the fascist Governor Scott Walker and the supposedly “heroic” Democrats were all defenders of capitalism — and were all therefore enemies of the working class. This communist idea attracted many workers in Wisconsin and around the world.

In September, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began in New York City before spreading to more than 1,500 cities worldwide. OWS captured the attention of workers who were tired of seeing banks get trillions of dollars in bailouts while education, transportation, health care, wages and jobs are slashed. One chant especially reflected this anger: “Banks got bailed out; We got sold out!” Throughout 2011, the Party participated in many of these occupations, picket lines, schools, churches and job sites, armed with leaflets and CHALLENGE.

PLP continues to strive to replace the dead-end reform tactics of the old communist movement with the fight for revolutionary communism for billions of workers in the world.

May Day

This past year was the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the first time workers took control of the state. In this spirit, we celebrated May Day with marches, dinners and songs. From Colombia to El Salvador, in Los Angeles and New York, in Haiti and Palestine, we raised the red flag honoring our revolutionary ancestors. This year our May Day celebrations grew in size and better reflected the international character of the working class.

Turning Fascist Oppression into Communist Organizing

The working class continues to suffer from the racist exploitation and oppression that capitalism requires. In their increasingly desperate competition for dominance, the various national ruling classes outdo one another in making workers homeless, sick, maimed or killed in pursuit of profit. Frantic about “sovereign debt,” collapsing banks, currency disasters (notably the euro) and the industrial crisis of overproduction, the world’s bosses are peeling back their thin masks of “democracy” to reveal the bloody maw of a fascist monster. Meanwhile, the fight over Central Asian and Middle Eastern oil and natural gas appears to be careening toward broader military conflicts.

As we move into 2012, the battles against our capitalist enemies will continue to rage. The workers of the world will continue to fight back, in ways large and small. Everything we do as workers and communists counts: every march or picket line or discussion strengthened by  communist ideas, every time we help another worker and demonstrate how we can build a society without the parasitic bosses. By doing these things and more, the Party will help the working class move closer to ushering in a classless society that produces for need, not profit. Communist ideas are essential for this crucial advance. A mass, international, revolutionary party is necessary to lead the way. PL is that party. Now is the time to join!

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Call for Teachers’ Strike vs. Fascist School Reform

LOS ANGELES, CA, Sept. 14 — At the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) area union meetings last week, some teachers called for a strike against the attacks on students and teachers, showing that “education reform” is fascist and part of the rulers’ moves to prepare for wider war.

On August 25, the Board of Education voted to turn over up to 200 lower-performing schools and 51 new schools to charter school operators.  This is fascist reorganization of the local school system by a U.S. ruling class that is in an on-going war and an era-defining economic crisis. After years of neglect this school reorganization is a qualitative shift as the bosses attempt to create a school system that will produce technically-trained and patriotic young workers to join the military and future war production. PLP needs to work among these youth who are future workers and soldiers, key forces for revolution.

This school reorganization is also being pushed in Obama’s so called “Race to the Top,” where his education secretary Arne Duncan, has proposed a competition for $4.35 billion in  federal grants to carry out “school reform.” States like California, where teachers’ unions had won laws that prohibit tying teacher evaluation and pay scales to student test data (so called “merit pay”) will be ineligible for these funds. But Duncan was in Sacramento recently to help State Senator Gloria Romero’s bid to change the law to make California eligible. And the LA Board of education just voted to enter the “Race to the Top” competition, also agreeing to tie teacher evaluations to test scores. These tests emphasize patriotism. Tying test scores to teacher evaluations is a way to enforce teaching patriotic lies and allow administrations to get rid of higher-paid older teachers while hiring younger teachers for lower wages and benefits.

In the face of the current attack, UTLA leadership is urging teachers to write local proposals to do school reform themselves.  While the union pays lip service to organizing the Charter Schools, they are not even trying to organize all teachers, including charter employees, into the same bargaining unit. UTLA President Duffy, loyal servant of capitalism, calls on teachers to get involved in so-called grass roots school reorganization such as the innovation division, “i-design.”  Such reorganization would be done to meet the ruling class’s needs, but would have to be approved by the school board and probably require a corporate partner.  This is not grass roots; it’s doing the bosses’ patriotic work to remake the schools to better prepare students for war, to defend a system of exploitation, racism and war. Local school control means teachers working with students and parents to administer their fascist system.  We can’t unite with those who oppress us, exploit us and send us off to war!

More layoffs and foreclosures are coming, so patriotic education reform will take on more importance for the bosses. A trade union response to this attack is totally inadequate. PLP calls on teachers, students and parents to organize a strike against the fascist reorganization of public schools.  Organizing such a strike, based on expanding CHALLENGE networks, builds the unity of parents, teachers, and students to prepare us for the struggle to get rid of the capitalist system and build a communist society.

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Bosses’ Education Reform: Use Schools to Strengthen Profit System

Every September, parents send their children back to school in the hopes that they will learn, grow and prepare for bright futures. But the capitalists who run the public school systems have their own racist plans for our children. As the economic crisis deepens and inter-imperialist rivalry over the worlds’ resources expands, the capitalist bosses become more and more entrenched in their own problems. Desperate to bail out their crumbling financial system and to prepare for more military conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the U.S. bosses spend billions. Shamelessly they continue to steal from the working class to save themselves and their system.

The current budget crises affecting U.S. school systems is a clear statement of capitalist priorities. These cuts are strangling a school system that was already failing our class’s children. In big cities where the majority of students are black and Latino, and families are already disproportionately suffering from unemployment and low wages, the cuts will be the worst.

In Los Angeles, classes will average 42 students. In NYC the school budget has been slashed by billions. This is forcing larger class sizes and cutting anything the Dept. of Education considers non-essential: art music, foreign language, sports, and after-school programs. In Chicago, where Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan honed his skills at cutting services to black and Latino students, many reading coaches, after-school and tutoring programs were eliminated. In San Antonio, schools full of black and Latino students are being shut down.

Washington, D.C, with a nearly all-black public school system, has been in the forefront of the bosses’ reform experiments, even as students continue to suffer. There, cuts are leading to layoffs of teachers as well as less money for vouchers and charter schools. While the schools are slashed, not a dime has been cut from the billions of dollars in interest going from the education budgets to the banks.

The attacks on working-class students are driven by the current crisis of the capitalists. In the 1950’s, the U.S. had emerged victorious from World War II and was launching the Cold War. U.S. bosses had the money to build huge factories that produced steel, autos, airplanes  and factory equipment. After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space, the U.S. bosses drove to invest in education for the “Space Race.” Now the U.S. is a power in decline. Those higher-paying industrial jobs are almost all gone. And the school systems with working-class students, always the poorest, are being gutted.

Capitalists view our children only as fodder for the bosses’ system. To the extent the bosses do care about educating working-class youth it is to have a politically loyal, skilled workforce to exploit. Technical education and patriotism are being pushed for black and Latino students. The advocacy for technical education reflects the growing need the ruling class has for skilled workers like engineers, drill press operators, and machinists, jobs needed for war production. Developing curriculum for the schools to create a workforce prepared for war is often masked by rhetoric saying the U.S. “needs to compete” with international rivals.

President Obama’s speech to school children on September 8 urged them to “set high goals, knuckle down in their studies and persevere through failure.” (NYT 9/9/09)  Many parents embrace hard work and perseverance for our children but the subtext of the speech is that if children don’t succeed in life, it must be their own fault because they did not work hard enough. This idea ignores the reality of the capitalist world. No matter how hard school children work, they will not be allowed to all become doctors or lawyers. They will not even all have jobs. Capitalism relies on a pool of unemployed workers to keep wages low. In the current crises, unemployment is even higher; teaching workers to blame themselves prevents them from blaming the true cause of unemployment — capitalism.

Capitalist schools spend much time dividing students into different groups. Tests are designed to magnify differences and assign arbitrary cut-offs, so children get sorted into different programs from gifted and advanced placement to prison-like dumping schools. Capitalist schools prepare a select few to steer towards the elite professions. The majority of students are left to fight for low-paying jobs or join the military (see letter, p. 6).

“Tough Choices, Tough Times,” the report of the rulers’ New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, proposes that capitalism’s divisions be further entrenched in the schools by forcing students into a defined path after the tenth grade, either college-bound or vocational. Obama wants school children to knuckle down in their studies and persevere through a system that is failing and that fails to offer them the future they deserve.

This latest economic crisis and the quagmire of constant war have left the rulers in a political bind. Individualism is a cornerstone of capitalism and since the anti-war and anti-racist rebellions of the 60’s the U.S. bosses have championed the politics, the art, the music and the philosophy of “me-first.” Schools collaborated with a curriculum rich in the stories of individual success and national progress as the result of individual “can-do” spirit or single-minded pursuit of individual success in the face of great odds.

The fact that the Nazis were defeated by the Soviet communists has been written out of history books. The bosses rewrote the truth of racism in the United States as the fiction of enlightened individuals struggling to champion the ideals of individual freedom. Slavery became an unfortunate “mistake” rather than the conscious policy of 250 years of racist rule codified in colonial law and the Constitution and enforced with ruthless violence that continues to define U.S. society today.

Obama tried to shift the message of individual success when he told students, “Don’t give up on yourself, because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.” National service has been a part of the Obama campaign since the beginning and now Obama is calling on schools to teach children to serve their country and to be inspired to sacrifice for the good of the nation. But it’s not “their” country, it’s the bosses’.

Obama and the rest of the ruling class know that the schools have been failing our children for a long time. They cynically use their own failure to meet workers’ needs as a rallying cry for reforms. Many of these reforms have won the support of parents and teachers who hope that they will improve education; but none of these reforms will change the fundamental problems of a system that doesn’t care about working-class children.  After years and years of education reform plans, 39% of children in the U.S. live in families earning less then the amount needed to meet their basic needs. (Center for Children in Poverty) Capitalism cannot educate the majority of children, and for the bosses it is not a principle whether students learn to accept inequality in a large school or a small one.

Reading CHALLENGE in the last few years, one can see many examples of fighting against anti-working-class attacks in the schools: from high school students protesting budget cuts and walking out against police brutality, to college students demonstrating against a pro-torture professor  and developing a Freedom School when summer session is cancelled. The Progressive Labor Party is not training students to calmly accept the life capitalism has in store for them. We want students to learn real history and real skills, to learn to organize, to learn to fight back and to learn to serve our class by building the fight for communist revolution.

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Obama’s Racist Education Secretary Wrecked Chicago’s Schools

arne-duncanOn December 16, Barack Obama presented Arne Duncan as the new Education Secretary at a press conference at Dodge School. The claim was that this school exemplifies his “Chicago miracle”—low-performing, low-income African American or Latino schools with rising test scores. Students, teachers and parents who dominated the Board of Education meeting the next day knew better. In Duncan’s seven years as CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), he has intensified racist stratification, privatized 10% of the schools (with plans for more), and militarized CPS with the complicity of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Duncan, friend to Chicago’s Business Roundtable, Mayor Richard Daley, and Obama, is no friend to the majority of Chicago students. Duncan (and Daley’s) signature plan, Renaissance 2010, closed 19 schools, mostly in formerly black or Latino neighborhoods now being gentrified. With the working-class students in schools far from the neighborhood, Duncan then built “Renaissance” schools for the wealthier families. Daley’s plan to bring middle- and upper-income families into the city (while driving out the poor by tearing down their housing) depended on having schools for their children.

As the U.S. military involvement abroad deepens, Chicago has JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp) programs in 31 high schools and 21 middle schools, 7 military “schools within a school” and 5 Military Academies. Next September, when the Air Force Academy opens, Chicago will have the distinction of being the only city with an academy for every branch of the Armed Forces. Duncan calls this militarization “choice.”

Also under “Ren 2010,” 75 new charter schools have opened. Charter teachers are not allowed to join the union. Their salaries are capped at ¾ that of senior union teachers, and they work longer hours. Charter schools are not about better education. They are about saving money, destroying unions and turning control of schools over to private companies.

Duncan’s new “turnaround” fires all the teachers in poor black schools and turns them over to private enterprises. The racist result has been that most of the experienced African-American teachers at these schools are replaced with inexperienced, predominately white ones. There are 2,000 fewer black teachers in CPS now than in 2002, a significant reversal of the hard-fought struggles of the 1960’s and 1970’s to integrate Chicago’s teaching staff.

Duncan and Board president Rufus Williams tried to intimidate students who spoke out at the Board meeting against Ren 2010, claiming “someone is feeding you wrong information,” but the students held their ground. Students and teachers described the harmful effects of a CPS policy which refuses to staff new teachers until October, while students sit in overcrowded or teacher-less classes. Those subject to this attend schools in neighborhoods ravaged by capitalism, where low-paid jobs and a myriad of housing and economic problems force them to move around. Duncan and his cronies know this, but deliberately refuse to staff schools based on predicted fall enrollment.

Under Ren 2010 (now extended to Ren 2015) a number of schools were shut down and replaced with smaller, more selective schools with adequate numbers of teachers and renovated buildings. Such was the case with Dodge School. As one parent activist said, the “rising” test scores occurred among completely different students than the ones attending the old Dodge. Other parents, teachers, and students exposed the Board’s racist “shell game” where higher performing students are moved into a building and Arne Duncan is given credit for “increasing test scores.”
PLP members are playing an active role in the struggle against these attacks on students. Many of the teachers, students and parents involved in struggle understand that capitalism equips students only with the knowledge and skills needed so the system can exploit them. The system “trains” many to be unemployed or cannon fodder by providing no education and then blaming the students themselves for their lack of knowledge, or indoctrinating them through military presence in the schools (and in many other ways as well). PLP is winning students, parents and teachers to a different vision of the future: one where young people will be cherished and active participants in the building of an egalitarian communist society.

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Bosses Turn Education into Schools for Imperialism

From metal detectors, cameras and police presence to eroding union protections for teachers, trends in education point to a tightening control that is part of a growing fascism in society. Workers and youth organizing in movements to oppose an accelerating cascade of budget-cut assaults will come up against these physical and coercive elements of the police state. Through sharp, vigorous and patient organizing inside such movements, communists can win masses of workers and youth to see growing fascism not only as cause for despair but as cause for revolution.

Capitalist education always serves to teach the big ideas needed so that the ruling class can pursue its aims with minimal resistance from the workers. The Cold War education of the 1950s produced a society that mostly accepted a vicious anti-communist war in Vietnam at considerable cost in lives and absorbed its costs for ten years. As the Cold War heated up again under Reagan in the 1980s, brutal wars in Central America and huge cuts in social spending ensued. A U.S. population won to anti-communism tolerated these attacks. The (unexpected) reward for U.S, imperialism was the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main competitor. During the Cold War U.S. schools taught young-people anti-communism so they would not protest the rulers’ war plans.

Today U.S. imperialism faces a situation that is both similar and different. New competitors are rising, and as CHALLENGE has emphasized, control of Mid-East oil is key to dominance in the coming period. What teachers are asked to teach about the Mid-East matters. The ruling class needs U.S. schools to win over future workers to U.S. imperialism.

In New York State all high school students must take Regents exams in several subjects to graduate. In Global History students have been asked to write about the “positives and negatives” or the “differing viewpoints” on imperialism. These topics do more than force thousands of students to argue for imperialism on test day. Because topics tend to be recycled, these questions also exercise enormous influence over teachers who care deeply about preparing their students for examination and graduation. Teachers frame their treatment of imperialism in similar terms. Teachers are pressured to avoid teaching imperialism as the racist and genocidal system that it is. Like slavery and the Holocaust, imperialism has no positive characteristics. This moral stance is impossible when teaching to the test.

This past June, question #41 reads:
“In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The United Nations response led to the Persian Gulf War of 1991. This response is an example of:
Empire building
Collective Security

In classrooms, where the struggle for literacy is desperate, teachers tempted to speak about U.S. imperialism are discouraged by such a question. The “correct” answer was choice #4. The test’s writers want Americans to understand Desert Storm not as an exercise in U.S. imperialism but “collective security.” But even more alarming than the right answer is the wrong one, specifically choice #2. Teachers who focus on actual history are in trouble. The history is clear:

The U.S. developed relations with the Saudis after World War II, calling the oil reserves of the Mid-East “a stupendous source of strategic power and the greatest material prize in the history of the world” Carter proclaimed his doctrine of U.S. dominance in the Mid-East in 1980 and created a “rapid-reaction force” designed to invade the area. Reagan transformed this force into Centcom, which has grown under every president and directed three major wars in fifteen years.

This history points to choice #2, imperialism. Teachers who speak in terms of U.S. imperialism run the risk of “confusing” their students and maybe even costing them the one point they need in order to graduate. The prospect is terrifying enough, especially to new teachers, to dampen a real critique of U.S. imperialism.

Additionally, the teacher-training taboo of never “sharing your view” finishes off many a good lesson about the true role of the U.S. in the world before it ever begins. No doubt the rulers have the good old-fashioned witch-hunt in their arsenal for teachers who refuse to toe the line of U.S. patriotism in class, and they will use it again as they have in the past. Next to these exams, however, the Cold War persecution of teachers was crude and perhaps even less effective in terms of the levels of conformity achieved.

Luckily, working class students can and do respond to real history teaching. Facts, a veteran PLP member used to say, are stubborn things. Several students informally surveyed on this question after the exam knew to stay away from choice number two even though they knew it was correct. In class, the teacher led discussions to ensure they understood the purpose of the test and what the testers were looking for. In fact deconstructing an exam this way actually makes test prep easier: “always pick the choice that makes America look good.”

When the “positives-of-imperialism” question reas its ugly head, we have an opportunity to raise important ideas among teachers and students about growing fascism, the role of education and the needs of U.S. imperialism. This article was discussed with several teachers and students in the base of PLP at a school where we’re active for suggestions prior to publication. We must take every chance the rulers give us to build our movement for communist revolution.

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Anti-Racists Unite, Teach Racist Educators A Lesson

NEWARK, NJ, February 2 — “You can see Jim Crow alive and well in debate,” said one coach in the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL) after a tournament here.

The head of the Jersey Urban Debate League (JUDL) ejected a Bronx high school from the tournament, accusing three black students of “trying to steal a pack of paper.” This incident has sparked outrage and action amongst the debaters and communities involved. PLP members can explain to fellow workers and youth that the only way to destroy racism is fighting for communist revolution worldwide.


A school safety officer and another woman — a teacher or administrator — accused three black student debaters in the girls’ bathroom of trying to steal a pack of paper (which was in a nearby janitor’s closet). The debaters denied this.

The accusing woman dismissed their claims and got the JUDL head to interrogate them. Frustrated and angry, the students refused to speak to him so he removed them from the tournament.

The entire team of nine made a quick collective decision to leave together to protest this racist attack. The debate coach dispatched an e-mail detailing these events, and many coaches, including PLP members, responded with encouragement, support and most importantly suggestions for action, including writing the JUDL head and the woman and possibly addressing it to the entire JUDL. Other coaches detailed how their students also experienced racism at other mostly-white tournaments, ranging from whispers to dirty looks to openly racist comments and accusations.

Urban Debate was founded as “anti-racist” leagues that would include black and Latino youth in an “advanced,” nearly all-white, academic activity. But just as U.S. bosses use black history month and Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy to mislead workers into believing conditions are improving for black workers, this incident — like the Jena 6 case —-shows how capitalist schools give students repeated lessons in tolerating racism as youth in order to accept racism as adults.

The black CEO of NYUDL, tried to ward off protest letters, saying “removal was not an unreasonable decision,” arguing that the debaters’ silence implies their guilt — not anger at actual racism — and stating that the incident wasn’t racist! Coaches responded to him with more suggestions for action, although a coaches’ letter has not yet been drafted.

PLP members — rather than preparing youth to accept racism — are organizing the working class to build a classless communist world that will abolish the false concept of “race” through struggles against the bosses’ racism.

Inside the Bronx school, staff, students and parents were furious. Parents are drafting a petition asking the JUDL head and the other woman to travel to the Bronx and personally apologize to the students and their families. A student petition will be circulated amongst their classmates, and the school staff is working on a separate petition, all asking for a formal apology and condemning the acts as racist.

Amidst increasing attacks on students through racist budget cuts, this struggle has mobilized dozens of students, parents and teachers to take action and can involve hundreds more. PLP is helping spread the struggle within the schools, explaining that the problem isn’t just one “bad administrator”; it’s capitalism’s racist education system.

Schools spread the lie that “anyone can succeed.” Meanwhile, they help ensure that working-class students — especially black, Latino, and immigrant students — accept “their place” as future docile cheap labor, prisoners or cannon fodder in imperialist wars. PLP aims to teach working-class youth that their future lies in joining the international multi-racial fight for a communist world without bosses and their racist agents.

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‘Small Schools’: Rulers’ Education for Fascism, War

(The previous article — 2/27 –– maintained that the move to small schools enables the rulers to increase fascistic control in a sort of “creeping” fascism.)

NEW YORK CITY — Although the separate identity and sharing of resources in these small schools may not seem fascistic, the subtle effect is that the working class is falling victim to these changes without connecting them to the ruling class’s need to increasingly control our lives. Indoctrinating students in schools seems like a natural way for the ruling class to prepare them for its future imperialist wars.

The rulers’ need to control by force all aspects of society is, for them, a necessary part of capitalism in crisis. The small schools help control not only the teachers and administrators but also to “creep” fascism into students at a very young age and win youth over to the bosses’ ideology.

The fact that over 70% of this city’s school population is black and Latino gives a racist character to this manipulation of the education system, and drags conditions down for ALL students. The rulers figure the large black and Latino student body is grist for their low-wage economy to grind out super-profits for the bosses, and drives jobless youth — the “fruit” of this inferior education — to enlist in the bosses’ military to fight and die in imperialist wars.

The small schools deepen the divisions the ruling class pushes on the working class. Not only does the working-class student suffer racism, nationalism and sexism, but the small school intensifies capitalist individualism under the guise of “school identity.” In one high school divided into smaller schools, the new schools insisted on “branding” — identifying each school in the building so visitors would know each school’s location. But this branding also separates the students and punishes those who were not present in the area of “their” school. Many students often faced disciplinary action because they traveled to their next class down the “wrong” staircase or hallway.

In one school that was “phasing out” of the building, students had classes in two separate areas, divided by one or more of the small schools. This caused them to arrive late to class because they had to walk around the small schools to avoid “trespassing” down their hallways. Often siblings would attend different small schools in the same building, causing problems when one sister tried to visit another attending a separate school in the building.

The administrators claimed the separation of the student bodies helped students focus on their studies. But in reality the rulers’ need for more control over the students in particular is the real reason behind this identity branding. The tightening of student movement is a form of preparing youth for future fascistic control.

The administrators in these small schools further push capitalist individualism by either having a dress code or a uniform students must wear while in school. Some schools have T-shirts and sweatshirts with the school logos on them to further link a student to a particular school. While there have always been school uniforms and dress codes, this new “branding” facilitates administrator’s control of the student body.

Many of these small schools are housed three or four to a building. Within the one building students must fight for resources that once served one school but now must accommodate three or four. Contrary to popular belief, small schools do not mean smaller class size. Most of the small schools face the same over-crowding as their larger counterparts. In addition, four separate schools have to share one gymnasium, making it difficult to schedule classes from four different schools in one gym.

Not only are students being short-changed in gym class, but they must share cafeterias, auditoriums and other areas of the building. At one small Brooklyn school, students were given gym classes without a certified gym teacher. Swimming classes were led by a teacher without lifeguard training, which is supposedly mandated by State Department of Education regulations. Worse, it’s life threatening for students as well.

Students are also being trapped into “theme” schools, although many “themes” are not real. Theater schools have no theater programs; law schools have no legal programs, etc. This indoctrinates youth into a lock-step way of thinking. And 12- and 13-year-olds are choosing — or being placed in — these schools without being allowed transfers (except for hardship or safety reasons). That’s fascistic.

Overall, this small-school movement is just another way the ruling class uses the education system — as they’ve done in the large schools — to herd students in the direction of supporting the bosses’ aims: a low-wage police state at home and as cannon fodder for imperialist war abroad.

(Next: The union’s role in this movement.)

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When we think schools, we think children, and when we think children our minds turn to the future. CHALLENGE readers know Progressive Labor Party’s view of the rulers’ plans for our class and our children: more fascism and more imperialist war.

Within this context we must examine the budget-cut attack launched against New York City’s schoolchildren. These cuts are racist, plain and simple, following the already existing fundamentally racist patterns in the city’s failing schools. Immediate cuts include “extras” — after-school, summer school and tutoring programs. It is precisely black and Latino youth — comprising 72% of the student population — who are most in need of such “extra” services. Their “future” is expendable.

These cuts are universal and across the board: $504 million over the next two fiscal years (NY Times, 2/1) — the worst in NYC in the last dozen years. Perhaps due to New York’s position as the capital of U.S. finance capital, this city may not have been reduced to Detroit’s school system, the most massively slashed in the country. But the sub-prime mortgage crisis combined with the economic downturn and the hundreds of billions poured into military expenditures put the Big Apple on the chopping block.

However, a broad-based movement opposing these cuts can emerge in the coming period. Several PLP’ers made a call at the last Delegate Assembly for a February 14th demonstration against the cuts. Despite local union leader Randi Weingarten doing all she could to torpedo it, networks and mass organizations across the system have taken up that call. This could be an important first response to “Kleingarten’s” cuts (Chancellor Klein + union president Weingarten).

PLP members will be active in any movements opposing these cuts. Where no movement exists, communists must spark one, within which we can advance our revolutionary ideas front and center.

These movements hold many dangers. The present status quo has been a school system filled with racist patterns of underachievement and widespread indoctrination, especially of anti-communism. The main political content of public education is the myth that “we all get a chance to make it in America” and “if you don’t make it, you only have yourself to blame.” This message is central to the ruling class’s use of public education.

The bosses need teachers and schools to produce future soldiers, future workers and — when that fails — future prisoners. But above all else, the rulers need passive ones in their pursuit of fascism at home and imperialist war abroad. The passivity engendered by this “blame-the-victim” mentality is even more important to the ruling class than the shallow patriotic platitudes history courses push on youngsters, many of whom tune out, and rightly so.

Communists must raise this general critique of education among the broad masses through our literature and among our close friends in long-term political struggle. This necessitates a discussion of communism as the only solution.

Phony leftists and reformists will come out of the woodwork and attempt to lead mobilized masses of students, teachers and parents into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party, swallowing up an anti-budget-cut movement into Barack Obama’s contribution to the rulers’ politics — mobilizing a new generation of (mainly young) folks to “believe in America” once again. They want millions in motion for “justice” while marching behind Democratic war-makers like Hillary Clinton. Throw in a terrorist “emergency” and we have a mass base for fascism. This is the grave danger we face.

Yet the opportunities are even greater. The bosses need budget cuts in their current crisis. Tens of thousands can be introduced to our communist ideas in liberal-led movements against these cuts. Amid a passive period, the simple act of organizing a contingent of students, parents and/or teachers to attend a rally can be an important political step forward, but only if communists, fighting side-by-side with these masses, seize the opportunity to make communist politics primary. We can expose the misleaders and train new communist leaders.

Confronting police goons and administration apologists, we can expose the naked force and racist neglect that saturates the schools and the capitalist system itself. We can point out the need for revolution when we show how the bosses will grant reforms when forced to, but take them away as long as they hold state power.

Yet the masses will only draw these conclusions if communists are active. As the communist leader Lenin asserted, communist ideas come to the working class from the outside. PLP dares to follow this road today. There is much work to do and a world to win. Join us!

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