41: LA Teachers’ Strike; Helen Scott on Rosa Luxemburg’s Legacy

January 24, 2019

In this episode, we talk to Helen Scott about the life and legacy of Rosa Luxemburg on the 100th anniversary of Luxemburg’s murder. We discuss her most essential works, The Mass Strike and Reform or Revolution, and talk about the historical context of Luxemburg’s political ideas as well as their relevance for today’s new socialist left. In our opening segment, we talk to LA teacher and strike leader Gillian Russom. This episode was recorded prior to the enormous victory won by the teachers, but it remains invaluable in its description of what a win would look like, how teachers organized themselves and the community, and what the fight will be over after the strike ends.

Helen Scott is the editor of The Essential Rosa Luxemburg: Reform or Revolution and the Mass Strike (Haymarket Books, 2008) and co-editor, with Paul LeBlanc, of an anthology of Luxemburg’s writings, Socialism or Barbarism (Pluto Press, 2010). She is an associate professor of English at the University of Vermont and member of United Academics AFT/AAUP. She has published articles on Rosa Luxemburg in International Socialist Review, Socialist Studies and New Formations, and is on the editorial board of the Verso Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, for which she will be co-editing Volume 5 with Paul Le Blanc.

Gillian Russom has been a rank-and-file teacher activist in UTLA for 18 years. She is part of the Union Power caucus and has been a leader in the fight to transform her union into a social-justice union capable of waging a fight against the forces of public education reform.

Links for our opener on the LA teachers’ strike:

Gillian Russom at Socialist Worker on the strike victory

Diana Macasa and Alex Schmaus on the inspiration behind Tacos for Teachers

Danny Katch gives 10 reasons to support the LA teachers

Melissa Rakestraw and Elizabeth Lalasz reporting from the picket lines on “Five days that stunned LA’s billionaires”

Video of a strike solidarity meeting featuring Gillian Russom and teachers from Chicago and Oakland (http://bit.ly/LASolidarity)

Links for our interview with Helen Scott:

Helen Scott’s edition of The Essential Rosa Luxemburg

Paul LeBlanc on Rosa Luxemburg’s revolutionary socialism

Paul LeBlanc on Rosa Luxemburg and the pathway to socialism

Danny Katch explores modern takes on the historic debates around reform, revolution and the road to power

Music and audio in this episode:

Excerpt of a speech by Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, addressing a massive rally of LA teachers five days into the strike
Aryana Fields (5th grade student in LA public school), “This is a Strike Song”
ScHoolboy Q, “X” (with 2 Chainz and Saudi) from the Black Panther soundtrack
Pedro Pastor, “La Rosa de Luxemburgo” with Eva Sierra
The Laggan, “Rosa Luxembourg”
Purge, “Rosa Luxemburg”