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Education struggles show need for socialism

Published Nov 18, 2010 9:30 PM

Larry Hales
WW photo: G. Dunkel

Following are excerpts from the Nov. 13 talk given at the Workers World Party national conference by Larry Hales, a founding member of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST).

Over the past year we have seen seeds of greater struggles to come — not only the outpouring of students, education workers, parents and community members on both March 4 and Oct. 7 — but also the tremendous response of students in November 2009 against the 32 percent tuition increase at the University of California system.

March 4 and Oct. 7 were high-water marks in terms of size, militancy and tactics, with thousands pouring out into the streets all across the country. Both deserve analysis, which has been done. The demands have to be expanded, and perhaps the twin mobilizations are the basis for something bigger and broader that can come next year.

March 4 and Oct. 7 were mobilizations in defense of public education and against the severe cutbacks, which are expected to be more severe in 2011.

As Marxists we know that it is workers, who sell their laboring power to the bosses, who can overthrow the system. Capitalism is based on exploitation, and has built within it its own demise.

If we look at the system and its needs and if we look at the present crisis, based on restructuring done over the years, the technological advances and the fact that imperialist globalization has rapidly built up the working class around the world — by that I mean workers in underdeveloped nations who have been drawn into production, extraction and selling of commodities for corporations or subsidiaries of companies based in the imperialist countries — we see how the competition for jobs, for survival is global now.

Education has been cut back, but education — universal public education — is needed for future workers, to prepare young people for their productive life in service of the system. While access has always been uneven, especially access to higher education, in the imperialist U.S., education was guaranteed from kindergarten to 12th grade, and here in New York, California and a few other places, higher education was for the most part free.

There’s been a long attack against public education, going back to white flight and tying funding for education to property values; the crumbling of school infrastructure in oppressed communities; racism; the colonial legacy taught to young people; touting the values of a decadent society; high-stakes testing; attacks on teachers; and privatization.

The attack on public education is racist. The system is being streamlined and will become even more segregated, which it already is to a great extent. But it is also a scheme of the capitalist class to get their hands on the billions of dollars of public money, from hedge funds bankrolling the building of charter schools to the permanent defunding of public higher education, forcing students to pay higher tuition and to borrow more money from the banks to go to school.

It’s no wonder that Wal-Mart, Bill Gates and right-wing foundations of the rich and superrich have spent so much to support charterization, “No child left behind” and the “Race to the top.”

The struggle for something better

The above illustrates the need for a system based on human needs.

The capitalist system is in profound crisis, a crisis which has sped up attacks against workers and their social services. The crisis reveals even more the need for struggle independent of parties that serve the ruling class’ interests, a struggle for something better.

That something better is socialism. The capitalist system is at a point where unemployment will continue to be high and production is severely contracted to maximize profits. The workers who are left are facing a greater offensive from the bosses to be paid less and less. The capitalist state has poured billions, maybe trillions into the economy, and the capitalist class is attempting to take more public monies through bankrolling charter schools and other schemes.

This is the nature of the system. All the things that have been fought for are things that are now being stripped bare or taken away entirely.

Socialism, a society based on the social ownership of the means of production, is not built off exploitation for profit, but solidarity, producing a social surplus for people’s needs, not for profit or greed.

The imperialistic capitalist class needs huge military expenditures to prop up its rule, to steal resources from other nations and forcibly open up markets, all for greater profit.

What need does humanity have for nuclear weapons? Why must more than $700 billion be spent on the Pentagon? Why are billions given to prop up banks when we need better schools and health care, better roads and bridges, better after-school programs, parks and other needs?

Capitalism has long out-lived its usefulness. It needs an oppressive apparatus to enforce its rule and defend the interests of the extremely small minority who reap the wealth we create.

Such a system is detrimental to our health, to the health of the planet. It is anti-social — the capitalist class is anti-social and must be overthrown for the greater need, the need of all humanity. A better society, a more advanced society is a socialist one, and it must be fought for. A start is building up the movement in defense of our needs and propelling that movement forward from a mere defensive to an offensive struggle for a better world.