On the defensive after March 4

May 4, 2010

NICK KARDAHJI'S article "Next steps in the fight against California cuts" was helpful in reporting the details of the small but important conference which took place as a statewide "next step" for the budget cuts movement in California.

It is also good that there will be a meeting in the fall to try and reorient the movement for the coming year.

I do want to take issue with the Nick's statements on the movement being in a "lull"--neither in retreat or on the offensive. This isn't true.

March 4th represented a surge of activism and an expression of the deep reserve of anger out there over what is happening to social services and education.

At the same time, since March 4th, there have been financial penalties placed on militants at San Francisco State University; United Teachers Los Angeles accepted a bad contract; United Educators of San Francisco has done nothing and seems poised to accept a similarly bad agreement; state legislators have placed 5 percent of the schools in California on a hit list for "transformation" without a peep from unions or activists.

All of this--in the context of no next steps from the organizers of March 4th.

This has put the movement on the defensive and made those around us lower their expectations, while also disorienting people active in March 4th, leaving them to wonder what did it all mean.

As socialists, we don't need to shield people from this unhappy reality. It only speaks to the importance of the fall conference as a gathering point for activists who want to fight the budget cuts, at a time when many will be looking to the Democrats and elections to solve their woes in November. This will tend to shift the discussion rightward and move people out of action and into electoral campaigning.

That's not going to be easy for us, but it is what is going to happen--and we need to prepare ourselves and others for this.

The one-day Oakland Education Association strike that occurred on April 29 can make a difference. They are one of the few unions (including Capistrano teachers on strike in Orange County) taking a stand in this environment.

Still, we gain nothing by ignoring what is staring us, and everyone else around us, in the face.

The movement that swelled on the 4th is retreating. We are not happy about it. We wish we could do something to shift it (but the left is too small and disorganized), but it is happening.

Socialists need to acknowledge this and engage our allies in a discussion with them on what to do about it.
Andy Libson, San Francisco

Further Reading

From the archives