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.

Continue reading “1. Fighting Fascist Attacks on Education”

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?

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

5. What is (Higher) Education For?

Through the Back & Forth of Liberal to Fascist Rule, Workers Counter Miseducation & Learn Communist Education

By K. Bennett

Today, I’d like to talk about the education system under liberal and fascist rule. Students and educational workers across the country are in the midst of academic censorship. Educational workers are seeing that an evidence-based, critical thinking approach to understanding social reality is under attack. Paychecks are getting smaller; costs of living continue to increase, and many higher education workers are grading papers out of their cars where they live. Many K-12 teachers are leaving the field in droves.

Continue reading “5. What is (Higher) Education For?”

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.

Continue reading “Today’s Labor Movement Needs a Revolutionary Outlook”

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.

Continue reading “People’s CDC Statement on the End of the Covid Emergency”

Fighting Fascism: from the Past to the Future

by Karyn Pomerantz, 4-24-2023

This blog article offers a definition and description of the signs of fascism, how it developed in several countries in the 1930s and 1940s, the ways people fought back, and the lessons they teach us. We will explore the Popular Front and anarchist responses compared to a revolutionary strategy.

What is Fascism?  Is the US a Fascist State?

Fascism is a stage of capitalism run by the same class of people as under “democratic” (liberal) capitalism.  It is not a new or different system. It develops when the ruling class cannot govern as “usual” and requires brute force to control workers to accomplish its goals  (https://multiracialunity.org/2020/08/17/updating-fascism-usa/).

People often believe that fascism requires politicians like Trump or DeSantis who spread a vicious discourse on racism and inspire white nationalists. Fears that either may gain the presidency have pushed liberal voters into the Democratic Party camp or into total despair and inaction.

However, fascism serves the interests of the same political and economic ruling class as under liberal democrats. It is easier for this class to keep its power peacefully by convincing workers to accept oppression rather than resorting to a more violent, disruptive fascist agenda.

Liberal democrats like Biden and former Democratic Party administrations give lip service to democracy in many countries. When US corporations need to steal resources, markets, and cheap labor overseas, the government will install fascist regimes, such as in Chile, Argentina, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

While their practices have elements of fascism, such as breaking strikes and deporting people, they do not signify that we have a fascist form of capitalism. If a liberal government can rule and milk the working class without sparking massive disruption, there is no need to use extreme force and repression to govern.

Continue reading “Fighting Fascism: from the Past to the Future”

From Turkey to NYC:

This Is What Capitalist Disasters Look Like – This Is What Fight Back Looks Like

By Karyn Pomerantz, 2-16-2023

Earthquake in Turkey

The world is aflame, from the blazing bombs in wars to the fiery heat of global warming. The drivers of empire use our bodies as cannon fodder in Ukraine and Russia and extract our minerals out of the ground in Congo and our bodies from earthquakes.

The huge earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed over 40,000 by today’s count (2-16-2023). We may say, “well, that’s nature, there’s nothing we can do about that.” But that would be wrong.

Continue reading “From Turkey to NYC:”

Solidarity Among Bus Drivers – Hail to the Working Class

by Karyn Pomerantz, 2-2-2023

This video celebrates the multiracial love and respect among bus drivers from all different parts of the world. While the song sung by a Sikh driver focuses on British drivers, it applies universally.  Link here https://youtu.be/-t1wci2AcdY

Meanwhile in the US: Metro Workers Strike Again

Since 2021, the DC area has experienced four strikes of workers in Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 against private contractors that operate public transit vehicles. The workers—black, Latin, Sikh, Ethiopian, and white, men and women, immigrant and U.S. born—have all shown great unity in the struggle, even more necessary because the ATU International, which has intervened in the current strike, has typically accepted substandard contracts in the past to save money by shortening the length of the strikes.

Continue reading “Solidarity Among Bus Drivers – Hail to the Working Class”

Stolen: Native American Children and Lands

by Karyn Pomerantz, 1-14-2023

Stolen indigenous lands, stolen and enslaved people, stolen resources, and stolen elections mark US domestic and global history. Democratic and Republican Administrations have conducted wars and assassinations to annex foreign territories (Hawaii and Puerto Rico among others), oppose imperial competitors (Germany, Russia, and China), and remove pro-socialist governments (Congo and Chile among many others). Beneath its patriotic and racist calls to arms is a rapacious grab for for profits  (https://multiracialunity.org/2018/02/02/as-u-s-imperialism-declines-we-must-fight-racism-and-nationalism/).

The US ruling class unleashed one of the worst genocides against the Indigenous inhabitants of the US territories beginning in the 16th Century. When the settler colonialists arrived, there were 5-15 million Native Americans; by the late 19th Century, only 238,000 remained. Because of 1,500 wars, massacres, the Indian Removal Act that pushed 60,000 people on the Trail of Tears into reservations, 230 treaties that seized Native land, and diseases like smallpox left untreated, rich white landowners and their government grabbed 99% of tribal lands to build their wealth.

Continue reading “Stolen: Native American Children and Lands”

IT’S SICKENING: Lack of Sick Pay, Leave, Insurance

by Ellen Isaacs

December 12, 2022

Given the level of attention to the recently imposed freight rail contract that provides no, zero, acute sick days for railroad workers earning an average wage of $64,210 (before the recent 24% increase spread out over 5 years), let’s remember their huge toll of Covid-19 cases as shown in this table of infected rail workers from the Federal Railroad Administration.1

And let’s remind ourselves how terribly the US compares to the rest of the developed world in minimum sick days that are mandated for workers on a national basis.2

Then let’s recall that despite being the richest country in the world, the US has the worst health outcomes among developed countries.3 Moreover, within the US there are huge disparities of health and benefits based on race as well as class (for an overview, see https://multiracialunity.org/2017/04/13/racism-is-a-scourge-on-the-publics-health/), a fact that helps to hide this woeful state of affairs, blame it on the most deprived, and diminish the struggle for change.

Sickness Among Workers Spreads Disease and Costs Money

Workers who get sick are not just a problem to themselves because of pain and suffering with possible long-term consequences, lost income, contagion, and family difficulties, but society has a lot to lose too. Sick workers without sick pay are 1.5 times more likely to go to work with a contagious illness than those with this benefit. Three million unwell workers go to work each week, mostly low wage earners, mothers with young children or both. Moreover, most have jobs such as restaurant or child care workers that directly interact with the public. It was estimated that five million people contracted swine flu in 2009 because of lack of sick leave.4 Temporary emergency paid sick leave for Covid through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 is thought to have prevented 400 Covid cases in each state.5

Capitalist enterprises may think they are saving money by not offering sick days, but they are actually hurting themselves as well as the society at large. Paid sick days lead to more preventive care, like vaccinations, and getting earlier treatment when ill and thus avoid preventable emergency room visits. This alone would save an estimated $1.1 billion annually.4 Workers who go to work sick are also 38% more likely to be injured on the job than those who can take time off, and the resulting loss of productivity at work is estimated to cost about $208 billion annually. Access to sick pay also reduces the chance of job loss by one fourth over five months, while a need for new workers increases bosses’ costs for new worker recruitment and training.6

Who Has Sick Days

As of March, 2022, over 33 million workers in the US lack even a single sick day, which is disproportionately true of low wage service workers. 55% of retail and fast food workers are in this category. Only one fifth of workers with the lowest 10% of private salaries have sick days compared to near 90% in the top tenth of wage earners. Almost half of working mothers – 54% of Latin and 42% of black mothers – have no paid sick time.6 A little over half of hourly service workers at 91 large companies like Costco and Walmart have paid leave, although the figures vary widely. 7

Even though worker organizing in 15 states and dozens of cities has resulted in laws mandating sick time, there is no such federal law, and 24 states actually have statutes preventing cities and counties from enacting their own laws.6 The federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides up to 26 weeks off a year for unpaid medical leave for one’s own serious illness or to care for a sick family member, but it has many restrictions. The employee must have worked for a firm with at least 50 employees for at least 12 months and for at least 1250 hours a year. Only 59% of workers meet these criteria.8 In the case of rail workers, the requirement that the worker has put in 1250 hours over the past year excludes many because hours on call do not count, which may be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.9

Everything Is Worse Without Insurance

As of 2021, 30 million people, 9.2% of Americans, had no health insurance, the main problem being affordability The highest percentage of the uninsured is those of working age, 19-64, and is disproportionately black and Latin, the latter group being 30% uninsured.10 Approximately 5.2 million people have gained health coverage since 2020 via the American Rescue Plan, which has increased marketplace subsidies and expanded Medicaid.4 Although originally expected to end in 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act has now extended these benefits through 2025.11 Then, who knows?

According to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey of a representative sample of adults,

  • 43% of those of working age are still inadequately insured in 2022
  • Of these, one tenth had a gap in coverage during the past year
  • For nearly a quarter their coverage does not provide affordable access to care.
  • Half said they could not pay for an unexpected medical bill of $1000 within a month, which includes 68% of black and 63% of Latin workers.
  • Undocumented immigrants, about 12 million people, are ineligible for any federally subsidized insurance
  • 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid have huge uncovered medical cost risk.6
  • The result of these large gaps in coverage is that one fourth of people with chronic diseases like diabetes have skipped prescriptions because of out of pocket costs.11

The Overlap of Sick Pay and Health Insurance

It is very difficult to find data that show the combined effects of sick days and health insurance. The table below, although nine years old, illustrates that the combination of lack of both sick leave and insurance leads to the highest incidence of delayed medical care, while those with insurance and sick days do better than those with the ability to take time off but no insurance to pay for care. Doubtless the same is true today.12

Railroad workers, one group of insured workers without sick days, may take occasional personal days, but even these must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance and so are useless for acute illnesses, which includes most infectious ones. If a worker does call in sick, there may be severe penalties, even termination. Since work schedules are irregular and may change at the last minute, it is very difficult to schedule any preventative or chronic health care.

What Is the Remedy?

It is hard to even contemplate the mindset of the US legislators or the President, well paid with generous benefits, who see fit to deny railroad workers even a single paid acute sick day. But it somehow is not out of kilter, not outrageous, in a  society where workers are treated merely as means to an end, means to make a profit, rather than as human beings with intrinsic worth. And the disregard continues even though, overall, profits and general social health and costs are negatively impacted.  

Partly this reflects the difficulty of planning beyond the next quarterly report under capitalism, always concerned with beating the competition in the here and now. Partly it reflects the need to reinforce the idea that workers, even in their own minds, are only an entity of service to a boss. And, of course, the poorer wages and benefits of black. Latin, women, and immigrant workers serve to physically and ideologically separate us and prevent the massive struggle that would be needed to overcome politicians, corporations, and sold out union leaders.

In order to uplift the status of US workers – from the unemployed to railroad and retail workers, to teachers and nurses – we must build a movement that unites us all. We must come together across all ethnicities and job categories to fight the injustices of this system, which range from working conditions to poor schools, housing and hospitals, to paying for and fighting in unjust imperialist wars. It is critical to build this unity. if we want to consider changing this whole system to one in which we can avoid climate disaster, pandemics, and nuclear war, we must overthrow capitalism and build a society we run ourselves in our own interests, without profits or racism, with only our own well being as its goal.


1. https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/railroad-employee-covid-19-infections-hit-pandemic-high/

2. https://cepr.net/report/contagion-nation-2020-united-states-still-the-only-wealthy-nation-without-paid-sick-leave/

3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/06/16/u-s-healthcare-ranked-dead-last-compared-to-10-other-countries/#76bd1600576f

4. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/lack-paid-leave-risks-public-health-coronavirus-outbreak/

5. https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/paid-sick-days/paid-sick-days-improve-our-public-health.pdf

6. https://www.abetterbalance.org/sick-without-a-safety-net/

7. https://shift.hks.harvard.edu/paid-sick-leave-brief/

8. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/coronavirus-puts-a-spotlight-on-paid-leave-policies/

9. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/rail-strike-threat-brings-new-focus-on-work-attendance-policies

10. https://www.moneygeek.com/insurance/health/analysis/americans-without-coverage/

10a. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/08/02/new-hhs-report-shows-national-uninsured-rate-reached-all-time-low-in-2022.html

11. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2022/sep/state-us-health-insurance-2022-biennial-survey

12. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0965