1. Fighting Fascist Attacks on Education

    Introduction and Key Note Address

The Radical Caucus of the Modern Language Association held a virtual roundtable discussion in April, 2023 on the significance of and resistance to the assaults on education, exemplified by banning books and all discussion of critical race theory, LGBT issues, and any other working class, anti-imperialist history. The presentations are presented here and numbered one through five.

In his introduction, Caucus President Geordie Miller, who is an English professor at Mt. Allison University and a leader of the faculty union, explained that:

From its inception in 1968, the Rad Caucus has been a site of organizing and struggle on campuses as well as within and against the institution of the Modern Language Association—an institution that currently has 22,000-plus members representing approximately 145 countries. The Radical Caucus is devoted to organizing a Marxist response in the MLA to the racist offensive against Higher Education. In the fight against fascism and its many forms and faces in higher education, the stakes are ourselves (to amend a line from Diane di Prima). The future that the ruling class is busy securing for higher education workers—indeed, for the workers of the world—is a future fuller and fuller of immiseration and other deadly, systemic commitments. Union busting and the repression of academic freedom are only the beginning of the worst to come. We don’t mourn; we organize.

Organizing a Marxist Response to The Racist Offensive Against Higher Education

by Barbara Foley

I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to be at this gathering today. I visited the picket line at Rutgers University-Newark earlier this week and was struck by the unity of students and workers, as well as their shared understanding that the union, which comprises everyone from grad students to TAs to lecturers to Part Time Lecturers (PTLs) to full time faculty, can advance only if its most exploited members take the lead: “the last shall be first!”  I have been appreciating how our colleagues down in Florida have been placing antiracist and antisexist politics front and center in their opposition to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s attempts to destroy their unions, gut academic freedom, and smother the class-conscious teaching of US history. And these comrades are not alone: working-class rebellions are cropping up around the world as the rulers ratchet up their attempts to make the workers pay for the increasingly evident failures of capitalism.

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2. The Real Mission of Community Colleges

by Lara Beaty

La Guardia Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where I teach, has a “mission is to educate and graduate one of the most diverse student populations in the country to become critical thinkers and socially responsible citizens who help to shape a rapidly evolving society.” According to Institutional Research last year, our student body is 22% Asian, 18% Black, 47% Hispanic, 12% White, and 1% Native American. 52% are foreign-born, down from 60% in 2017. 46% of our students have a family income below $25,000.

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3. Red Pill, Blue Pill; Or, Do You Really Want to Know the Truth About What is Going on in Florida?

by Phillip E. Wegner

In one of those coincidences upon which my teaching and writing rely, I recently watched again the Red Pill-Blue Pill sequence in Lana and Lilly Wachowskis’ 1999 film The Matrix. Early on, the rebel leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) offers young Thomas Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves)—at this point a neophyte but soon to become an agent of the new—an opportunity to understand the truth of his world. When Neo asks, “What truth?”, Morpheus replies, “That you are a slave Neo, like everyone else you were born into bondage, into a prison you cannot taste or smell or touch. A prison . . . for your mind.” Morpheus continues, “Unfortunately no one can be told what the Matrix is . . . you have to see it for yourself.” He then offers Neo a “last chance, after which there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, and you stay in Wonderland. And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.”

I take this scene, especially in our current situation, as an allegory of advanced education in the humanities. When faced with this choice, too many in our vocation readily swallow the blue pill. The challenge then is how can we awaken them to the state of emergency in which we are now all living?

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4. Radical Academic Freedom for a Functioning Democracy

by Meera Sitharam

 May 6, 2023

Public education is ground zero in a 4-year war by the Florida governor, via the legislature, to subvert democracy both on and off campus. Texas, Alabama, and Georgia are not far behind and sometimes even ahead. And the war bug is spreading with virulence, from the South, to the Nation to the whole globe. (The trend is clear from this Volkswagen-commissioned report at https://academic-freedom-index.net/.)

Each year since 2020, two or three Florida bills have been enacted that severely restrict the free expression and exchange of ideas between students, educators, researchers, and the public, nationally and internationally. The basic question is why these bills were introduced and whether they address any existing problem at all.  Except for wild claims of “indoctrination” of adult students, no answer has ever been provided for this unconstitutional big government overreach perpetrated by so-called small-government advocates wielding authoritarian power supposedly granted by voters.

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Reform, Revolution, and Abolition: Historical Reflections

The Paris Commune

By Rodney Green

This talk was given at the Abolitions Conference of the University of California Washington Center, May 6-8, 2023. Recorded sessions can be accessed at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gI31ZV45xfNcgCdtljdrrEWfyOTfuQbDsg_iBbHxIf4/edit?usp=sharing

The fight against state repressive institutions has a long history. Central to this history is strategic conflict between reform and revolution. Can change can come from reforming the system (working from within) or does it require a revolution that destroys the state and bring to political power the exploited and oppressed?

Today’s “abolition” initiatives share this conflict. Most participants in today’s abolitionist movements are deeply skeptical of racism, capitalism, and imperialism. All of us in these various movements have faced enormous frustrations in trying to bring about systemic change.

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Today’s Labor Movement Needs a Revolutionary Outlook

by Patricia Conner

This talk was given at the Abolitions Conference of the University of California Washington Center, May 6-8, 2023. Recorded sessions can be accessed at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gI31ZV45xfNcgCdtljdrrEWfyOTfuQbDsg_iBbHxIf4/edit?usp=sharing

As a Metro transit worker in DC and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 representing over 10,000 bus operators, train operators, mechanics, custodians, landscapers of Metro, and hundreds of paratransit workers, I wanted to share thoughts about building a revolutionary movement in my workplace. I was a shop steward and executive board member at my bus garage for six years and am a member of the Progressive Labor Party, a revolutionary communist organization. I want to share the frustration that we workers have had in trying to abolish the various forms of racism, sexism, and exploitation in our industry. The system we face is rigged against us at every turn. That is why we communists try to build among our fellow workers an understanding of the need to go beyond trying to abolish the various travesties inflicted on us by the bosses, and try to build a revolutionary party that can both strengthen the labor movement in its day to day work while simultaneously creating the movement and institutions to overthrow the entire capitalist system. For me, abolishing capitalism means building a communist world of equality and collectivity.

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Ukraine’s Zelensky Sends Love Letter to US Corporations, Promising ‘Big Business’ for Wall Street

By Ben Norton

Reprinted from Scheerpost, January 27, 2023

Editor’s comments: This article clearly delineates Western-backed Ukraine’s dedication to repressive capitalism, on top of the wholesale corruption that has long characterized the country. A Western victory would also add on austerity and anti-worker policies dictated by the IMF. Ukrainian workers have nothing to gain from this war which only offers a choice between competing imperialist exploiters. Ukrainian, Russian, indeed all soldiers and workers need to fight for an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist society.

Ukraine’s Western-backed leader Volodymyr Zelensky sent a love letter to US companies, thanking “such giants of the international financial and investment world as BlackRock, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs” for buying up his country’s assets. “Everyone can become a big business by working with Ukraine”, he enticed, claiming that the reconstruction of his nation “will be the largest economic project of our time in Europe” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFhrg3S8eMk). Zelensky likewise praised the Starlink company of billionaire Elon Musk for its technological support, and he called for more Western weapons shipments, including Patriot missiles and Abram tanks.

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People’s CDC Statement on the End of the Covid Emergency

Updated by Editors May 7, 2023

The US has suffered more from Covid-19 than other high-income nations. The state of emergency increased access to Medicaid, and assured free access to vaccines, tests, masks, and treatments for all US residents, including more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Even with these additional resources, the poor US government response has led to a nearly 3-year decline in average life expectancy, and larger declines in low- income and communities of color. Removing resources such as tests and care during the ongoing pandemic will cause a deadly disaster and worsen these intolerable inequities. The pandemic has NOT ended, and the US lacks sound public health policy to move to long-term management. We must fight to preserve and expand these wins. Moving forward, the US public deserves better.

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Palestinians Don’t Exist?

by Ellen Isaacs

March 22, 2023

“Palestinians don’t exist.” (https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2023/03/paris-israels-smotrich-says-palestinian-people-dont-exist-calls-them-fictitious)  This was the recent statement by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that made shocked headlines around the world. And, of course, he meant it as an affirmation of Jewish nationalism, the right of Israeli Jews to dispose of all Palestinians from the Jordan to the Sea. Sounds kind of like the Nazis, no?

But in a perverted way he was right (forgive me, read on). People exist, all people exist, but there are huge divisions between us. In this universally capitalist world, the divisions that truly describe our station in life and the power to control our lives depend not on our ethnicity but on our class, workers versus bosses and their henchmen. Workers exist in every nation, as do capitalist power holders, and in every nation workers are exploited for their labor and used as soldiers to fight the workers of other nations as capitalists compete for wealth and resources. The alternative is for workers of all nations to recognize our commonality, unite and build a new worldwide society, based on our own interests. In that world there will be no nations, no racism, no sexism, and no exploitation for profit. International workers exist!

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Disgrace at the New York Times

by Ellen Isaacs


The New York Times, that paper in which one can reliably find the agenda of the liberal wing of the US ruling class, is sounding increasingly absurd lately. There was the editorial page piece claiming the masks had been proven to useless in preventing the spread of viral infections (NYT 2/21/23). That generated so much pushback that they had to publish a much longer op-ed which thoroughly refuted it (NYT 3/10/23). Then, after Seymour Hersh wrote an extremely convincing article coming close to proving that the US had blown up the Nord Stream pipeline (https://seymourhersh.substack.com/p/how-america-took-out-the-nord-stream), there was a front page Times article postulating that non-governmental Ukrainians were the perpetrators.

“New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year…the operation might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services… with the help of experienced divers who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services.”(NYT 3/7/23)

Sounds highly unlikely.

Well recently (3/19/23), two thirds of a page in the editorial section is devoted to an article called America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own, by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond. It’s all about poverty – and it doesn’t even mention capitalism. That’s not really so far from the Times’ usual practice, but the sophisticated author tries to blame all those who are not poor for the problem. He is liberal enough not to blame the poor themselves, acknowledging that the poor have “faced more obstacles in life.” However, the next sentence says “many of us help to create and uphold those obstacles through the collective moral failing of enriching ourselves by impoverishing others.” Us includes all those who earn a decent living and can afford a home, food, and have health care, lumped right in with the captains of industry.

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