LA Strike: Self-Mobilization of Workers and Communities

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This is the first essay in a series that we are republishing and/or hosting on the recent United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) strike. Originally published on New Politics

In January 2019, a massive strike of over 30,000 public school teachers stunned the Los Angeles power structure when it received massive, almost unanimous public support, especially in the city’s large Latinx and Black communities.  Latinx students now make up 75% of the city’s over 600,000 public school students. Even the anti-labor Los Angeles Times, which had issued dire warnings ahead of the strike, felt compelled to run a front-page headline on the third day that began with the words, “L.A. Teachers Bask in support for strike.”

This support, and the sustained pickets and rallies of teachers, students, parents, and other community members, forced the school board of the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) to concede considerable ground.  Everywhere, the union placards of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) were printed in both Spanish and English. The mass outpouring in favor of the strike also helped change the national conversation about the privatized charter schools that are eating away at public education. And just as the West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona teachers’ strikes of 2018 paved the way for this one in LA, so the LA strike is very likely to be followed by major teacher strikes in Oakland, Denver, and other cities.

What Teachers and Students Are Facing

Public schools are underfunded, overcrowded, lack adequate social services and are subject to the worst impulses of neoliberalism. These attacks on public education disproportionately affect poor students, students of color, immigrant children, students whose primary language is not English, and those with disabilities. For months and years, LA teachers have been demanding a modest wage increase along with lower class size, accountability for charter schools, more support staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, etc.), less standardized testing, re-investment in education programs, and a stop to random searches and policing of students. A previous strike in 1989 demonstrated how demanding only a wage increase was short-sighted. LAUSD did meet teachers’ demands in ’89 but also increased class size, cut down on support staff and programs, and heavily charterized the district.

By 2014, a slate backed by progressive caucuses brought a new leadership to the UTLA. Moreover, the reinvigorated union lost hardly any members despite the reactionary Supreme Court decision making it harder for public sector unions to maintain their membership by making it “voluntary” even for workplaces with union contracts.

As a result of the January 2019 strike, the teachers won something on all of these issues, although in some cases only marginally. The seven-day strike commenced on Monday, January 14, Teachers wore #redfored, in/with the spirit of their fellow teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona who had engaged in similar labor struggles in 2018. Teachers would report to their respective school site at 6.30 am and picket heavily during school drop-off. A daily rally was held in downtown LA at the LAUSD headquarters. After the rally, teachers would return to their schools to picket at the end of school. Other actions involved protesting at the homes of school superintendent Austin Beutner and Monica Garcia (one of the more obstinate board members). Beutner the new superintendent is an investment banker with no teaching or education administration background. He was also a deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa and has ties to billionaire Eli Broad.

Supporters from many political leanings joined teachers on the picket lines. In particular, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)-LA, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), and Black Rose/Rosa Negra (BRRN) were among the leftist groups that were conspicuously in solidarity with teachers picketing and offering resources, while several from the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) participated as individuals. Teachers also coordinated their strike activity with other labor actions across the city.

Continue reading “LA Strike: Self-Mobilization of Workers and Communities”

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Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: What is Internationalist Socialist Solidarity? (video)

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Please find below video recordings of four of the speakers from the first panel hosted by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ), at Left Coast Forum at the Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC) on Saturday, August 25th. The panel was entitled “Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism: What Is Internationalist Socialist Solidarity?”

Unfortunately, we do not have a recording of Sina’s comments, or of the second panel we hosted that day, “A New Kind of Anti-War Coalition.”

Javier Sethness, Black Rose/Rosa Negra (personal capacity)

Frieda Afary, Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists

John Reimann, Oakland Socialist

Alexander Reid Ross, Portland State University (website)

Report-back from Year 2 of Trump: L.A. Rise Up!

Last night, January 26, 2018, the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) sponsored a banner drop on the theme of observing the onset of Year 2 of the Trump Regime, calling on L.A. to Rise Up! in downtown Los Angeles. We had positive responses from several motorists and passersby, and also held a brief rally with speeches by Mimi Soltysik of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition on police surveillance, Ali Kiani of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) on war threats and imperialism in the Middle East, and Silvia La Rote of the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN) for an update on the J20 protesters and resisting the criminalization of social movements.

Call to Action: Stop U.S. War Threats Against North Korea and Iran!

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Call for Demonstration by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

Friday, October 27, 6PM: Westwood Federal Building, Veteran and Wilshire

 

Stop US war threats against North Korea!

Stop US war threats against Iran!

Abolish nuclear weapons everywhere and the capitalist system that produced them!

 

Trump’s aggressive moves over Korea and Iran have taken us closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. In threatening before the United Nations to destroy both the regime and the 25 million people of North Korea, Trump crossed a barrier not seen even at the height of the Cold War. Therefore, it is imperative that concerned people who see these threats as madness gather publicly to express our opposition, not only to Trump and to the capitalist system on which he stands, but also to all other powers, great and small, which threaten their neighbors and their own people with war and repression. As citizens and residents of the US, we feel a special responsibility to do everything we can to stay the hand of the most vicious, authoritarian, and warmongering administration in our history.

Please join us on October 27!

 

Sponsors of the CPRSJ:

Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Los Angeles

Campus Marxist Humanists, UC Santa Barbara

International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast branch

Socialist Party of USA, Los Angeles chapter

Members of Solidarity, a Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization

Endorsers of the October 27th action:

San Gabriel Valley Anarcha-Feminism

Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair Collective

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Dyne Suh, JD UCLA and Korean-American rights activist

Douglas Kellner, UCLA professor

Rev. Jim Conn, former mayor of Santa Monica and social activist

Peter McLaren, Chapman University professor

John Foran, UCSB Professor

Report-back from CPRSJ Launch in Los Angeles, July 14

On July 14, Bastille Day, nearly fifty people came to the Westside Peace Center for the first public meeting of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ). There was a healthy mix of younger and older activists with representation of much of LA’s ethnic diversity as well.

Four speeches were given by representatives of groups that convened the Coalition: Frieda Afary from the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists, Zach Medeiros from Socialist Party USA, Javier Sethness from Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, and Kevin B. Anderson from the International Marxist-Humanist Organization. The speeches have been posted at the Coalition website here.

A lively debate followed about the Coalition’s published Principles of Unity, its membership, actions for the future, and strategies for moving forward. Representatives of several other organizations participated in the discussion, which centered on issues like our position of targeting all imperialist powers, including but not limited to the U.S., and the relationship of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity to building a solid movement in LA. Other discussion points included incorporating opposition to ableism into our work, especially in light of the leading role played by persons with disabilities in confronting the Republican assault on healthcare. Overall, support was high and most people in attendance felt that there was a need for a new revolutionary, anti-capitalist, and humanist anti-war coalition that opposes all forms of war and militarism, whether from the greatest global hegemon, the USA, or from other powers, great or small. At the same time, those in attendance who supported our work also wanted to keep the focus not only on war and imperialism abroad, but also on the fascist threat at home and the struggles against it on the part of working people, immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBTQIA community, and people with disabilities.

In the coming weeks, the Coalition will broaden its work, reaching out to the individuals and organizations that have expressed interest in working with us, and also to the broader LA community.

In the meantime, we encourage all of our supporters to subscribe via the Contact page on our website, and to download and distribute our Principles of Unity.

 

Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) Principles of Unity

 

The Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) aims to resist capitalism, imperialism, and authoritarianism in the Trump era. We are helping to develop a thoughtful, multidimensional, and proactive opposition to the intensifying authoritarianism that has become evident around the globe, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the U.S., Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. We oppose NATO and U.S. imperialism because they underpin capitalist-militarist hegemony around the globe. In general, we target rampant class oppression, imperialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, nativism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, and environmental destruction.

Domestically, we resist Trump’s absurd and deranged proposals to build a vast border wall with Mexico, deport millions of people, broaden the prison-industrial complex and police powers in the name of law and order, cut tens of millions off from healthcare access, further deregulate the economy, suppress climate science, and greatly expand U.S. military and nuclear capabilities. We note that Trump is in sync with neofascist movements in Europe, especially in France, Austria, the UK, and Hungary.

In contrast to liberals who oppose Trump on the basis of the neoliberal politics of Clinton and Obama, we believe that the problems facing us lie in the very structure of contemporary capitalism.

In contrast to the authoritarian left, we oppose and organize against the machinations not only of U.S. imperialism and its subimperialist allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also those of Russian imperialism and of subimperialist powers like Iran.  Thus, we oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Saudi Arabia’s barbarous war on the people of Yemen, and the untold brutality of Assad’s suppression of the Syrian Revolution, which has been abetted by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and other Shi’a militias.

In the U.S., we support issues and movements like Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, free abortion on demand, climate and environmental justice, a living wage, the rights of immigrant labor, justice for Latinx, struggles of Indigenous peoples for autonomy and liberation, healthcare for all, and full rights for transgender people.

Our class politics recognizes the fundamental importance of an affirmative, liberatory, and humanist alternative to capitalism and the unity of all working people across national borders on the basis of international solidarity.

Our principles of unity follow:

  1. We strive for the firmest unity of working people in the U.S. across racial and ethnic lines, and across rural/urban and regional divides, together with all those who oppose capitalism’s inhumanity on the basis of affirming Black and Latinx liberation, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, the rights of people with disabilities, immigrant rights, prisoners’ rights, and climate/environmental justice.
  2. We note the specific detrimental role of white supremacy in U.S. history as a factor in undermining working-class unity. We also note that African Americans have been in the forefront of progressive and revolutionary movements throughout the history of this country.
  3. We proclaim the underlying importance of class analysis and anti-authoritarianism in our theory and practice.
  4. We oppose all forms of imperialism and state terrorism, including the U.S. and NATO’s military interventions in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere, even if under the guise of humanitarianism.
  1. We also oppose terrorism by non-state organizations such as ISIS, the Ku Klux Klan, and fascist groups. Instead, we call for people to people solidarity with those who oppose both fundamentalist terrorism and authoritarian regimes.
  2. We hold the growing influence of Trump and Putin and the growth of neofascist movements in Western Europe to be key manifestations of the increasingly authoritarian direction of global capitalism, as also seen in China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
  3. We envision a liberatory and humanist social movement opposed to capitalism, imperialism, and militarism that equally opposes reactionary regimes that happen to be at odds with the U.S.
  4. We believe that power must be devolved to the people through grassroots democracy and that democracy without social justice is meaningless.
  5. We do not consider authoritarian states that have claimed to be socialist or communist to be models of socialism or democracy in any sense. We strive instead for real human emancipation.
  6. We uphold the principles of internal democracy and transparency in our own efforts, and commit ourselves to these ends.

We invite other organizations and individuals who share these views to join this coalition.

Initial conveners include the following socialist and anarchist organizations:

Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation-Los Angeles

International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast Chapter

Socialist Party, Los Angeles Local

Members of Solidarity: A Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization, Los Angeles Branch

 

Adopted May 11, 2017