Rich Gibson, San Diego State University

Rouge Forum Summer Institute June 25 2003

What Is It That People Need to Know, and How Do We Need 

to Come to Know It, In Order to Be Free?

In May 2003, United Airlines workers massed in New York City in a demonstration against their bosses, and their union, which they felt betrayed them. The bosses had demanded and won huge wage, benefit, and working condition concessions from the union leaders, who gave them, all under the banner that, "we are all in this together." 

One day later the United employers announced that they were taking, off the top, prodigious pension pay-outs, millions of dollars, in a tradition going back at least three decades in the US, proving once more that giving concessions to bosses is like giving blood to sharks: They only want more. 

At the New York demonstration, one worker was featured in the New York Times, holding a sign, "Hey, I thought we were all in this together." We are not, and the IWW probably captured that best in the graphic of 1919, showing the arrangements of the system of capital. The IWW in the preamble to their constitution, written nearly 100 years ago, understood what most North Americans still cannot grasp, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common..." 

They might have better said that the working class and the employing class have only contradiction in common. But they were clear in taking up where Marx left off: "..the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself" (Marx, Engels, 1988 p207).

But how do we get from where we are, to where we must go? What is it that people need to know, and how do they need to come to know it, in order to lead reasonably free, connected, creative, communal lives? 

These are epic times when qualitative and irreversible changes are taking place. People are defining themselves and, in a world which can offer its children only perpetual war, it is a period when despair and confusion can seize the outlook of masses of people. These epic times call for a new form of epic heroism, rooted in notions of the common good, community and equality, which remembers the wisdom that says where there is oppression, there is resistance, sometimes muted, sometimes not taking forms that we approve of, but there is always resistance, and it is in this interaction that change is made, change which will happen-for the better--- if we can outfox the destruction of wisdom. There is no alternative. It will be either barbarism, or Marxist-humanism, international friendship or endless war. 

By Marxist-humanism I mean, on the one hand, not socialism, which I think has clearly failed, and I explain why below. I do not mean reform, piecemeal tinkering, or reform. On the other hand, I mean a complete and total overcoming, transformation, of social, intellectual, and sexual relations, the abolition of the wage system, and of labor as we know it--an unbounded change open to yet more change. I mean revolution for a Marxist-humanist society, based on the notion, from each according to their commitment, to each according to their need-a notion which goes beyond the position of the Manifesto, and harks back to ACTS 4. 4, in the christian bible, which calls for sharing all with all. 

Part of understanding that overcoming is remembering how rational knowledge is constructed. My former neighbor was a shrink. I once interrupted his lawn-mowing to ask him, "Just exactly what is it, Roger, that you do?" Roger raised his left hand high over his head, out to the side, and wiggled his fingers. "I get them to watch this," he said, "While I do this," and he lowered his right hand to below his waist and wiggled those right fingers, and he chuckled.

Part of the construction of reason is understanding how knowledge moves from what appears to be, to what is, or from appearance to essence. Appearances are important, surely. No architect will admit to wanting to buid an ugly bridge. But what counts is the working of the bridge. Appearance to essence. Of course, we can never know everything there is to know about bridge-building. Each time we do it, we learn. But we can know enough not to be paralyzed into inaction. What we know can always be deepened. When do we know enough to act?

We should by now be quite aware of our social surroundings. What is is capitalism. The challenge is to find the potential in the actual. This paper about transcending overcoming capitalism and imperialist war, calling for epic heroism and revolutionary ideas rising not out of the mists, but from a careful analysis of what is. My thesis is that schools are central to this struggle in North America, and in much of the world. The interacting striving of school workers, students, and community people could reverberate into the working class world-wide. In this, ideas are vital today. The data is in on our social conditions-and recent attempts to change them. Now, it is not the experiment, but the ideas about the experiment, that decide what is to be done, or, in another way, the theory sets up what is observed, and acted upon. 

This is as good as it gets with capitalism. This is all capitalism has to offer: endless war, irrationalism, racism, massive unemployment, the ruin of our natural resources, the assault on reason--all in the name of profits. Today, every local tin-pot warlord has learned he needs a nuke, as the US may come, and every big state feels empowered to strike first, just in case. 

Even so, at the same time, capitalism has produced the social relations, the technology, and the knowledge that allow us to understand it at it fullest, especially those of us in this privileged sector of the world, which like Great Britain in the 19th century, has stolen the resources of the world and placed them at our fingertips, and since we can nearly know it in its totality, we may be able to project what to do about it (Lukacs, 1982).

In 1999, I wrote in the social studies journal, TRSE, "if you are teaching middle school now, you are looking at the soldiers in the next oil war." It was easy to see this war coming, but not THESE wars. Nobody could predict the vile terrorist attacks on September 11. And I make no crystal ball claims now. Only Cassandra had perfect prescience. 

Even so, there are tendencies that are rooted in history, and present-day circumstances, that we can use to peek into what is to come. In January, 2002, four months after the billionaire terrorist attack, in the midst of the initial stages of the massive assault on civil liberties in the US, the Rouge Forum News editorialized, "There will be resistance, and that resistance will likely rise initially from poor and working class black people, people who have historically taken the lead in the US. It may break out in Detroit, or in smaller ghettoized areas, but it will break out, as people cannot take much more--they will fight back because they must." Now, in June this year, we can see black rebels in Benton Harbor Michigan, rising up, their town ablaze, in response to the steady stream of police repression that has accelerated under the current regime. 

Their extraordinary and courageous rebellion in Benton Harbor took place within the most repressive period in the history of the US. I list these as interrelated international and national social and economic tendencies, all existing before September 11 2001: 

*Booming inequality within the US, and between the US and the world (Johnson, 1999), even the World Bank Report of 2002 says ½ of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day, and 1/5 live on less than $1 per day. Inequality has accelerated since September 11, 2001, the billionaire irrationalist's terrorist attack, and poor people have suffered the most, (World Bank Report 2002 online, chapter 0100), 

*Segregation deepening within communities and schools (Orfield, G., Yun, J. !999), 

*Irrationalism-rising power of religious fundamentalism in school and out (Jenkins, 2002; Ohio Plan, 2002), 

*Regimentation of society via spectacles, surveillance, and the suspension of common civil liberties (Foner, 2002), 

*Rising authoritarianism on the job and off, as the vertical discipline of society sharpened. This was especially easy to see in schools (Bayot, 2002), 

*An equally transparent intensified split of mental and manual labor, again easy to spot in schools, where elites tried to replace the minds of teachers with the minds of for-profit curricula regulators and testing agencies (Ross 2000),

*Militarization of the schools and society (Goodman, 2002), 

*Technology leading not to better lives for all but to massive worldwide unemployment and overproduction, meaningless jobs repetitive jobs dominating the future for most kids (Feaster, 2002),

*A mystical economy built on Ponzi schemes like Enron, an economy that was unraveling with the NASDAQ collapse--with the interwoven collaboration of auditing firms and banks so steeped in greed that they lost sight of concern about investment for production, their leaders so fearful of the future that they just stole the money and ran, 

*A deepening divide of town and country, with masses of people being driven off the land and arriving in cities, homeless and hopeless, 

*A cultural attack in North America, designed to heorize the military and to eradicate memories of Vietnam (Franklin, 2000), 

*The privatization of the military, increasing leadership and dependence on mercenaries, secret companies, while special operations forces work under the guidance of corporate leaders (Wayne, 2002),

*The incarceration of two million people in the US, inordinately black people. (NYTimes April 11 2003) 

*Government less and less as a neutral arbiter of disputes, more and more a weapon in the hands of the powerful (Lipsitz,1994, p.59). 

September 11, the despicable terrorist attacks and what followed , was both a qualitative shift in our social context, and a bright light illuminating what was already going on that went often unnoticed. 

September 11 and the events that followed confirmed at least two related contradictions: 

1. The contradiction between global capital and the national base of capital's personifications, the people who seek to ride the process. Capital, a system that rules people, is ever on the prowl for the highest forms of exploitation, of raw materials and resources, of markets, and of labor, people. Capital, as an international system which has now invaded the entire planet, knows no boundaries, but its history is bound to a national base, countries. The capital system requires the protection of national armies-which come at odds with one another in an almost infinite variety of ways. Within countries, capital is represented, personified, by people who, from time to time, possess capital and ride it, until someone else does a better job at exploitation. At every level, all are at odds with all and, in some areas, this chronic war results in either kakistocracy, the rule of the worst conceivable leaders, or Talibanization, the rule of the most irrational and depraved. 

Oil is now central to understanding current events and this contradiction. Oil wars play out with the battles between Unocal, Chevron, of the US; Bridas from Argentina, Russia, the countries of the Middle East oil fields, the new central Asian nations, Nigeria, Indonesia, Colombia, Venezuela, Japan, and China, among many others. International capital, as a system, is in discord both with pure individual selfishness and the need for a national army (Klare, 2001, p90; Yergin, 1991 p.722, 753; Rashid, 2001 p45; Lindquist, 1991, p77).

It appears that US leaders (who have close ties with oil interests) now seek to resolve that contradiction by invading the world, everywhere from the Philippines to Central Asia, Iraq, and Columbia and unannounced more to come. So, the U.S. seeks to resolve the national/global contradiction by extending its global rule, by invading the world, with permanent bases everywhere, under its national base. Positioning against China has to be seen as a significant part of this effort to construct uninterrupted hegemony (Meszaros, 2002, p29).

As an aside, we may have seen the last of the counterfeit wars of national liberation, which have so captivated the left for nearly a century. One such war after the next, while challenging forms of imperialism, never led to either a Marxist-humanist ethic, nor a Marxist-humanist practice. Now, perhaps the snake oil will no longer sell, maybe the people will only fight for something much more than a new boss--or maybe not. Surely the Columbian FARC is running a successful guerilla campaign beneath the National Liberation rubric, but should they succeed (and best of luck to them), perhaps their rank and file will quickly demand more than a dominated job. Clearly, the question to all now is: How to truly abolish the wage system-root it out hook, line, and sinker? Or, in converse, how do we win freedom, what Marx suggested in Capital (Volume 3 p. 329), "begins only when labor which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production." 

2. Secondly, the invasion of the world will create another contradiction, the deepening inequality that the wars' costs will lead to intensified suffering among the poorest section of U.S. society and the poorest people in the world. As the economy and efforts to reify a Master /Slave relationship grind on the daily lives of poor and working people, they will fight back, developing wisdom as they go, as they always have-and must. 

Nevertheless, in the US and around the world there was an outpouring of witless nationalism following the terrorist billionaire's attacks that has to be troublesome, even if it was in fact superficial. There was, for example, no rush to enlist in the military, even though hundreds of thousands of people waived flags at baseball games. There was no patriotic purchase of stocks, and there has been no patriotic outpouring of enlistments for Iraq, even though that was urged by the White House corps. But appearances are important, superficial as they may be, as they can be transformed into something else. 

Capital invaded the world, leaving nothing untouched. The most recent century was the first time in history when there was nowhere to run, as the residents of the Falklands/Malvinas discovered when British jump-jets began to bomb their hide-away sheep farms. Now, it may be that capital, if we can take it as a personification of itself, could not tolerate areas and people which it created, debased, and de-civilized, that is, barbarized, to a point where they were briefly out of its reach, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Congo, etc., and capital felt compelled to recapture them to rationalize them into systems of its accepted behavior: wage slavery. In South Africa, the processes of capital, tailed by the white neo-fascist apartheid government, moved to a peaceful transition, and self-preservation, by inveigling the Mandela, and Communist Party, wings of the African National Congress to abandon their promises of equality and democracy, to get with the program of neo-liberalism, and to unleash the traditional passive-aggressive forms of capitalist violence (unemployment, landlessness, epidemics, starvation, drugs, rape, etc.) on the masses of people-many of whom still thing this was a victory--while others are assaulting the ANC leadership in the squatter settlements. 

This is, then, an international and national society, steeped in inequality, segregation, irrationalism, heading for a sharp financial crisis, with the most powerful of the nations promising the citizens of the world perpetual preemptive war-- the highest stage of what is fairly called capitalist development. 

In sum, what is afoot now can best be understood in the context of an intensified international war of the rich on the poor. There is a word for the direct rule of the rich, coupled with the promise of war, the suspension of civil liberties, racism as public policy, irrationalism assaulting reason, a culture writhing in violence. I will leave it to the reader to name the combination of these chilling tendencies. No, I must name it: Fascism. (See Gibson, What is Fascism?

Such a world, such a nation, is going to make peculiar demands on its schools. No external curricula standard, and no high-stakes test, can stand outside this social context. 

One tendency is worth examining a little deeper in regard to the changing role of school. That tendency is deindustrialization. Basic industrial production is indeed taking place, and in connection with agricultural labor and the struggle for knowledge, social and scientific, industrial labor makes our lives possible. But industrial production has been nearly obliterated in North America. It has been shipped mostly overseas, outsourced. 

Since 1970, more than one million US auto workers lost their jobs, probably forever. Another million steel workers, and miners, and in rubber and feeder plants were permanently laid off. Labor analyst Doug Henwood estimates that there are 700,000 industrial jobs left in the US. I think he is wrong by about one-third, but let us take that figure as it is (Henwood, 2002). 

I offer four postulates which I think are firmly grounded:

1.Factories, once central to civil life in the US are closed, for the most part. 

2.The numbers of industrial workers in the US have been slashed to strip the industrial working class of their potential, for the time being, of being serious agents for social justice-even though some industrial workers, dock-workers for example, occupy vital crossroads of capital and can shut them off if they choose.

3. Since the industrial workers, especially those in the Congress of Industrial Organizations were the people who won in the 1930's what we take for granted as civilized life, things like Social Security, the 40 hour week, rights to organize, form unions, exercise free speech and assembly, and child labor laws; the absence of their jobs is important.

4. The remaining industrial workers, on one hand, belong to unions so corrupt, undemocratic, racist, and captivated with nationalism that there is no reason to believe that they will soon be leaders for social justice. This has been true for decades (Adamic, Brecher, Serrin). On the other hand, the remaining industrial workers in North America are remarkably privileged, in a relative sense (not to discount their dangerous jobs), and they know it--indeed many of them have been steeped in the AFL-CIO culture which suggests that American workers do better because other workers do worse. Lastly, this work force is aging, and has done nearly nothing at all while hundreds of thousands of their comrades lost their jobs. The only real experience of the key industrial sectors of the AFL-CIO is retreat and loss, a habit which will be hard for them to break, even though they will be more and more cornered as war costs and production demands crunch on their lives. 

From that I submit this:

Schools are now the central organizing places of North American life. More people organize their lives around school than any other force in North American society. While schools do not garner even 1/10th of the federal military budget, schools are in every community, everywhere, offering food, knowledge, free space, medical care, and hope-real or false. The military is isolated, deliberately, and does none of that. The tax system is widely distrusted, and social security still directly influences only a small portion of the population. Teachers are also able to exert the most creative control over their jobs, more than any other group of workers with medical benefits in the US. Teachers also work with children, future soldiers or fighters for a better world. 

Reflecting the social shift, teachers are now the most unionized people in the United States. With 3.9 million members the school workers unions are nearly three times the size of the next largest unions, SEIU and the Teamsters. Educators in the National Education Association have some union democracy available to them, unlike most unionized people, as indicated by their 1999 rejection of NEA's leaders' plans to merge them into the AFT-AFL-CIO (Diegmueller, 2002; Gibson, R. 1999). This is not true of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the most corrupt, co-opted, and undemocratic unions in the western world, but the AFT represents less than 1/3 of US school workers. 

The school worker unions are now both in the midst of deep crises. The NEA's internal surveys, released only to select staff, show that more than ½ the membership would quit if given the opportunity. The union leaders, like their counterparts in industry, are profoundly alienated from the rank and file, both via lifestyles (the union bosses make about $450,000 per year at the top), and in program: the union leaders created, wrote, and participated in the sharpest attacks on the teaching force in the last decade: the standards and the high-stakes tests that were born from the regulations. With the Bush-Gore "No Child Left Behind Act," supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, and carrying the aka of "No Corporation Left Behind," the NEA leaders may have topped their own list of betrayals. NEA stood silent on the bill.

The NEA has, for years, banked on membership growth, using that fund to pay extraordinarily generous staff benefits (most NEA staff earn well over 100,000 per year, with generous expense accounts). But membership growth is rather like a Ponzi scheme; when it stops, the plan begins to unravel. Such is the case for many NEA groups now. They face real financial crisis. Key NEA states like Texas and Florida are losing members. In addition, corruption has run amok in school unions for years. Now, some top AFT bosses are being caught, and imprisoned. The top leaders of the Washington DC local of AFT embezzled more than $3 million from the treasury (and rode in limos in full view of all), and is likely off to jail soon. Similar events area playing out in Dade County (embezelled funds topping $200,000 per year, for years and Broward County Florida (local executive director of NEA jailed for attempted child rape). 

Very few school workers trust or respect even their local union leaders-for good reason. This, however, does not translate into oppositional action in the form of caucuses, or clear organizational challenges--except from the right. There is a rise of Christian unionism in the south challenging NEA. A quasi-Christian union is the largest teacher union in Texas. Instead, for the most part, it only means school workers are more alienated from their jobs, more despairing--other than those working with groups like the Rouge Forum, which offer them chances to make sense of their circumstances, and to change them. Nevertheless, the gap in leadership means the field is relatively open to creative action. 

This means that what teachers and related school workers do now counts more than ever before. This is true not solely because their jobs are located in the central organizing point of North American life, jobs which cannot be outsourced, but because most of those teachers are working with those sectors of society which are most exploited, most oppressed; communities of color and immigrant communities. It should not be lost on us that these communities are likely to be both explosive, and, especially in the case of recent immigrants, experienced in the powerful social struggles in their earlier homes. 

This is not to say that industrial workers are forever hopeless, or that school workers are solely position to be revolutionary forces in North America. On the contrary, most teachers have been, throughout history, conservative, even reactionary. The first union to join the Nazi Party was the teachers' union. Most teachers will not be revolutionaries, but some will--and they matter.

Industry in the US could be rebuilt, if the processes of capital show that will be profitable again. The Ford Rouge Plant, where I once worked, was once the largest industrial work place in the world, with more than 100,000 workers. It was the site of militant unionism. Today, less than 9,000 people work at the Rouge, and the UAW local there is one of the most unscrupulous in the nation. It was, in part, in recognition of that shift away from industrialization and real unionism that we named our group the Rouge Forum-as a counterpoint.

Even so, the Ford family now says they will rebuild the Rouge, with a $2 billion investment(Detroit News, June 21 2003). We shall see, and we shall see if the re-industrialization somehow revitalizes the UAW. Frankly, I doubt re-industrialization will happen, nor will the rebirth of the UAW . And, whatever comes of the Rouge, 200,000 jobs in Mexico's maquiladora plants have been lost to China in the last three years. The main tendency is outsourcing, capital in search of ever cheaper surplus labor. 

It is true that the working class, in the plants, in the military, on the docks, remains as a key lever for change around the world, but not in the US, not now. The question we face is this: where can we best send our limited resources for the greatest impact, now. I think that place is school-where the youths of the working class are, and where the class struggle is raging. 

Nevertheless, while the world appears to be more divided than ever by the wars of all on all, it remains that the revolutionary processes of capitalism have united us in unprecedented ways through systems of exchange, production, technology, transportation, and communication. How can we make that unity dominate the disunity that now prevails? 

The last fifty years witnessed the first time in history when every man, woman, and child could live fairly well, if we shared, if we could build a society based on inclusion and community. Yet that possibility today is strangled by an interaction of a fascist few and the voluntary servitude of those who cannot see a way out. 

Again, the beginning point of social justice today is a massive change of mind, consciousness. From the other end, the last great Chinese Wall ruling classes have, when only ruthless violence will save them, is the system of ideas that causes a sizeable group of the oppressed to serve as the army of the oppressors. When those ideas begin to crack up, when the troops refuse to obey, shoot their officers, mutiny, things crack up. 

Critical thinking is, in most schools, the order of the day. Just how critical can we get people to be? 

As Jean Anyon has demonstrated, doing school reform without doing simultaneous economic and social reform is like washing the air on one side of a screen door. It will not work. But doing social and economic reform also requires a context, a goal, and for us that goal must be to overcome, go beyond, transform, metamorphasize, capitalism. This is as good as capitalism gets, characterized by, above all, sharpening inequality and violence, and it is unacceptable. 

The main things taking place in school, besides the intensified invasion of market forces (a frontal assault on space and thought), commonplace segregation and the destruction of curiosity, are standardization and testing. There is a direct line from standards to tests to deepened segregation to mindless nationalism and the willingness to die for Exxon. Resisting those tests is resisting fascism--if test resistance is taken as anti-capitalist resistance; and often it is not. Test resisters who, today, refuse to be capital resisters, are simply choosing not to live in the world, and, should they win, they will win segregated, racist, anti-intellectual, fascist, pro-war schools that do not give a lot of tests, which is quite possible. Henry Ford, who ran quite a few progressive, inquiry based, integrated, private schools in his day, probably would have approved. Reformers, test resisters who want nice capitalist schools just lay the ground for great betrayals in the future. 

Real school reform, which will allow reason to transcend irrationalism built into the social structure, and also allow equality to overcome inequality, democracy to go past authoritarianism, necessitates deep social transformation-the interaction of struggles in school, communities, in the military, and on other jobs. There is nothing new about this, from Soweto to Mississippi to Paris, it is unexceptional for students and youth to point the way, to grasp that direct mass action is superior to any set of textbook lessons. Combined with some form of radical schooling in the context of direct action, that kind of schooling is indeed critical-practical activity. 

Beyond resistance, schools at least claim to struggle for what is true, and the key question facing humanity now is the question I began with: What is it that people need to know, and how do they need to come to know it, in order to be free, creative, connected, communal, inclusive, and unafraid? The substantive side, and the pedagogical side, surely cannot be split apart, as 90 years of sham socialism should teach us--whatever it was that masses of people should have known was clearly not learned as they hardly resisted socialism, and they hardly burst out of its capitalist veneer (socialism was never much beyond the nationalization of the working class) when it fell apart. No one learns to ride a horse in one sitting, and falling in learning is a process of practice and reflection. Still, at issue here is a massive international change of mind, coupled of course with huge upheavals, but a change of mind that will outlast the uprisings and transcend into something worth the fight. And such is the task of schools: massive changes of minds-through the interaction of pedagogy and substance, the latter always guiding the former, but recognizing the decisive impact of the processes of gaining and testing ideas.

What can we do in schools today, restricted as they are, to build a better world? We can do at least four things things that will not be built into external educational regulations or their mates, the Big Tests-but they can be built into everyday lesson plans:

1. The Critique of Tyranny and its transformation is ages old, but the metaphor of the Master and the Slaves (nicely graphed by the IWW in the "Pyramid of the Capitalist System") is a lighthouse for understanding what it is people need to know, and how they need to come to know it, in order for all to be free. This is not only a study of contention, opposition (though it most assuredly is that, exploding notions that "we are all in this together, partners in production"), but a study of overcoming, transcending, transforming, that is, how we can start with what is and get to what ought to be. 

At base, the Master-Slave metaphor can show, graphically, this simple thing that people must know, at the outset, of how we can become free: Things change

We can see that the mass of people, over considerable time, have not, and will not, be ruled forever by a relatively tiny minority--especially since we now have all at hand that we need to be reasonably free and comfortable--if strife did not go with transformation. This goes to the question of how we keep our ideals and still teach within a society that suggests that may be impossible (Strauss, 2000; Gibson, 2002 ). Persevere! The fact that things change can sustain good teaching, even under fascism, when we must ask ourselves fifth columnist questions, like, "What would Kim Philby do?" 

2. Wisdom: the grasp of the whole, totality, and the potentially profound understanding of the relations of people to each other and their universe-the vast possibilities when people's interactions are mainly friendly, cooperative. Wisdom is understanding the system, its relations to the composite parts, and humbling action. Knowing the whole is, at the same time, partial knowledge, as every form of engagement both enlightens us about the whole, and changes it. But the partiality of knowledge about the whole must not be paralyzing, no more than we could allow our partial knowledge about the complex forces of gravity stop us from walking out the door, reasonably confident that we will not lift off and away. Put simply, wisdom is internationalism over nationalism. 

The whole relates to education in yet another way. Anatol Lunacharsky, leader of the revolutionary Soviet education system in a brief period before Stalin acceded to power, suggested that a good Soviet citizen would be one who could "play one instrument very well, but who could hear and understand the whole orchestra too." The task of intellectuals has, for too long, been to only construct reason. Now we must consciously connect reason to power. But in daily life, making friends and keeping them over time is a radical notion as well. (Lunacharsky, 1971, p23).

In the Master/Slave relationship, in that contradiction, little but power is illusion. Wisdom, then, seeks to link reason, ideas, not simply with some more reason, but with power, in order for wisdom to survive. This goes to the next thing that can be done, now.

3. Courageous action. Fear, yoked to opportunism, is commonplace in schools now. It is reasonable to be afraid of job loss, the impact of tests, mindless popular nationalism, professional isolation, etc. How can we get beyond this fear? 

Courage is not standing in the school house door, berating the tests and the regulations--and getting fired. Courage is not merely making an ethical point, but getting enough power, and then using it, to make change. Part of the answer to the question that faces so many educators now, "How do I keep my ideals and still teach?" is found in gathering the power found in competent teaching, close ties with colleagues, parents, and students, and the courage of returning to work another day. Part of courageous action is the patience and base-building that makes the action side possible. 

Ideas should be a key product of school. New ideas, which we sorely need, require some freedom to have them. Offering freedom to students takes courage. Promises of freedom won by the absence of freedom, typical of oppressive curricula, have blown hollow in the past. That history, which is really world-wide, is available in the US, and can be pointed to. (Shannon 1980). Even so, freedom is the process toward emancipation, if we consider freedom in its present moment. It is not simply declaring freedom, but using freedom as part of the process to win more freedom, freedom of inquiry for example to have better ideas about how to be free.

Courage is developing the critique of tyranny and wisdom to the point of understanding what it takes to win, and then acting--in conjunction with the people who are losing most from the system of capital, and thus are likely to understand it best. 

Courage is recognizing that what people need to know and how they need to know it, in order to be free, is a process, not a dogma. We all have a lot to learn-and we need to try to learn with good humor. Courage, then, is also grounded in the humble practice of listening carefully. 

Courage could mean taking a radical action like making several lifelong friends, or leaving a subversive flyer in a lunchroom, or teaching well , or concluding that one is always too busy to resist and resisting anyway, or visiting a kid's home to see a parent, or grandparent. Courage can indeed be refusing to give the test--en masse, or denouncing a tyrannical law, or ridiculing an enforcement bureaucrat who deserves to be mocked, or simply being patient with a colleague who has run out of patience. Courage can surely be leading a wildcat strike matched with freedom schooling to discover what forms of education can thrive in the midst of civil strife-as members of the Rouge Forum sought to do during the Oil Invasion of Iraq.

Courage also involves the sharp wit to grab the right link of the chain at the right moment, and then to act. For example, in Chicago, George Schmidt of Substance Magazine, and a 28 year veteran Chicago teacher, was fired for publishing sections of the hated high-stakes CASE test in Substance in 1999. Schmidt did not do that recklessly. He had studied the opposition, his resources (legal, financial, etc) and the terrain, which he knew well. He guessed his action could win. Four years later, in January 2003, twelve Chicago teachers signed a petition saying they would not give the CASE to their students. The CASE collapsed. Exposed as a bogus exam, through the persistent efforts of hundreds of educators who listened to the test resistance over time, the CASE exam was cancelled for Chicago kids and school workers. It all began with a few educators grabbing the right link. 

4. Leaders in this movement need a practical education and action ethic, drawn from the historical experience of the Master-Slave metaphor, rooted in the reasonable supposition about human nature that people are imaginative, curious, and creative, architects of their circumstances when they adopt a practical-critical stance, and that, given some freedom and criticism, they can learn, comprehend, and transform their world. Again, the beginning point of this is simple: Things change. They change in part because of techonological advance, in part because of deepening cleavages between harmony (a united world) and disharmony (class struggle, imperialism, etc), but also because people must embody struggle in their every day lives, in all the key sectors of life and history. Let me list four:

1. At work people struggle not only for pay, benefits, and working conditions, but for freedom and creativity in the processes of the work, and control over what is done with the product. They engage this struggle, in varying forms and with differing intensity, because they must struggle in these arenas, and others, in order to live. 

2. In the centerpiece of reproduction, sexual relations, people continue to press for greater freedom, crossing boundaries firmly established. The history of human development demonstrates that sexuality(as a matter of pleasure or reproduction) , over time, wins over racism, nationalism, even homophobia.

3. People struggle for what is true. Everywhere in the world, people are recognizing that their governments are lying to them, about nearly everything--and the struggle for what is true, the difficult battle to defeat prejudice and habit, is as necessary and relentless as the fight for food-indeed in many instances it is the same thing. Take US troops, for example. They know their government provides them with inferior materials, so they buy their own equipment, some spending as much as 5% of their income on supplies. This plays interestingly against the fact that US teachers spend about $3,000 per year on books and materials, or about 6% of their average income. In each case, the struggle for what is true is significant, perhaps more vital in the case of the military----or perhaps not. 

Now let us look back to the key point of the Master-Slave metaphor which Marx addressed in his Theses on Feuerbach, "...circumstances are changed by people and it is essential to educate the educators. This doctrine must therefore divide society in two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice" (my emphasis from Marx, 4th Thesis. See also David Harvey, Spaces of Hope, p200-203). The concluding two sentences here usually get the least notice, but for my purposes it is key to grasp (a) The Master/Slave metaphor in play as the cleavage of society into two parts, (b) with the Master side as self-limiting, a cul-de-sac, in which only domination is in the interest of the powerful (c) and the side of the masses of people as containing the seeds of a new world of freedom, (d) obtainable only by a complete overturning of the existing relationship.

The path to that overturning is now steeped with history. We can learn from what went wrong in the past. Socialism, I think must be admitted, failed. While a key part of that failure surely stems from the incessant attacks launched against socialist states from the imperialist world, the failure of socialism was nevertheless mainly internal. I have eight interrelated thoughts about why socialism failed, and a few ideas about what we can learn from that.

1. Socialism began with a one-sided view of Marxism (now best represented in G. A. Cohen's, Karl Marx's Theory of History but deeply rooted in past misinterpretations): The Theory of Productive Forces. This view suggested that equality could only be won from abundance. To gain abundance, the productive forces of machinery, technology, and industrial organization must be maximized. To achieve that, technicians, experts, administrators must come to the fore. To entice them, there had to be rewards, privileges--to the party leadership as well--which, through benevolence, would share out the treasure--- later, and then later still, and then never.

The theory of productive forces, summed up by Lenin in a description of the New Economic Policy (which openly declared a return to capitalist productive relations in the USSR) was this: electrification plus the party. The work of F. W. Taylor, designed to make machines of people, to strip the minds of the work force and to diminish working people in their lives to make them cheap at work, was preeminent to socialist practice. A humane work place was seen as a utopian frolic (Taylor, 1973).

Decades later, this theory made it possible for a top leader of the African National Congress to say to me, in an interview on May 20 2003: "Our economy is simply the NEP (New Economic Policy of the USSR) updated. We have learned that we must have capitalist, neo-liberal relations of production. Now we know that sometimes you must stand over the people with guns to gain that production, to get their minds right, to build our modern NEP."

This idea, adopted both by honest revolutionaries and corrupt opportunists, ignores Marx's vital emphasis, "The greatest productive force is the understanding, wisdom, of the revolutionary class itself." (Poverty of Philosophy, p196). The wisdom of the people is replaced with the management of the party leadership. 

The theory of productive forces blinded many people, distracted them from their initial projects of community, democracy, and equality: Marxist-humanism-and became an excuse to rebuild inequity under the nationalist disguise of, "we are all in this together," nearly indistinguishable from the viewpoint of the owners of United Airlines quoted above. Production became the sole ethic, and the sole aesthetic as well. Such is the case in South Africa today, where inequality, epidemics (aids and cholera), and ignorance reign over the failed promises of the South African Communist Party and the ANC. 

Abundance will not be the basis of the next human society. More likely, for some time, we will have to learn to share misery--nothing new to millions now. The old Masters will not give up without a horrific fight. Their wars over the last century cost, at minimum, 150 million lives. Should we pretend they will not, in their last gasps, bomb their own cities, poison their own water supplies? Transformation will not be waves just lapping on the shore. It will be many waves, over a good deal of time, followed by a series of huge waves, collapsing the walls of what has been, crashing into a difficult period, in order to get on to a better world. This interim period, rising from the ghoulish violence of the old powers, will be one of sacrifice--but sacrifice built on our knowledge of the betrayed sacrifices of the past. 

2. Nationalism: often a response to imperialist intervention, or to racism, nationalism swept over the internationalism of the world's workers--who do all occupy space that is going to always be unevenly developed, and who must, because they are propertyless, compete for jobs and life. Material conditions, and propaganda, kept nationalism alive long after it served any reasonable purpose for most people.

Internationalism of the world's workers is first, an idea, leaping beyond experience, that must become a material force--a signal of the creativity of the architect who can foresee the structure or a building, or the social architect who can envision a better world. Nationalism, as Fredy Perlman pointed out long ago, has enjoyed a continuing appeal, even among socialists. It at once then aligned socialist workers with local despots, and shattered pretenses of internationalism, setting up endless wars and economic battles, turning workers into instruments of their own oppression. Now, for example, the African National Congress of South Africa, has demolished its fifty-year stance on equality, ("The mineral wealth and industrial wealth shall be transferred to the people,") under the dual the shelter of nationalism as a response to globalism, that is, "We are all in this together, in the 'big church' of the ANC, and we must adopt globalist strategies to hold together in the nation." Daily life is exploding the ANC's betrayal, as I took early reports when masses of people drove off an ANC official (come in a Mercedes to conduct a ceremony changing the name of an essentially-closed-by-privatization- hospital) by mass action in Soweto in May 2003. Nationalism, any pretense that there is some form of unity for poor and working people other than the unity of our class, our position in the Master/Slave relationship, whether that is set up as racial nationalism, sex/gender nationalism, or country-based nationalism, is a murderous form of ambush. 

3. Male chauvinism/sexism: the fear of non-exploitive sexual relations on the one hand, and the outright domination of women, coupled with a complex variety of sex/gender biases on the other hand. Sexual oppression, the oldest division of labor and the oldest form of oppression, may be our biggest hidden in our history that we cannot see its complexities. Even so, in my experience, in the two revolutions, or upheavals that I have the most experience with, in Grenada and South Africa, the exploitation of women as sexual objects, and as the workforce of the revolution, quickly became big reasons why the revolutionary effort was shipwrecked. The women were, literally, doing the serious work; the men doing the women. 

4. Related to the theory of productive forces are several multi-stage theories of social change. China and the USSR set the pattern (despite Lenin's insistence, at the watershed moment of the Russian revolution, that social change could leap stages). First there had to be an advanced form of capitalism, under the party, then socialism under the party, then the end of the class struggle (again under the party, in contradiction to all previous claims--this a pure fiction) (Gibson, 1994 p363 ,see also footnote 433). 

Hence, mass movements rooted in solidarity, equality, Marxist-humanist democracy, that is, revolutionary movements promising the freedom and creativity of a new world, movements that were, while the revolution was in progress, more democratic and egalitarian than any societies in history, when victorious, the leadership turned back on the people in the name of the theory of productive forces and declared that freedom was showing up at work on time in a Taylorized factory, or, in some cases like South Africa, the freedom to become an individual entrepreneur-with no start-up capital. Today, the ANC is using armed force against miners and community organizers who seek to interfere with their NEP-like project, and it is reasonable to suggest that the levels of the ANC betrayal will result in ruthlessness at least as vile as that of the apartheid regime. Throughout socialism's history (and the parallel histories of unionism, liberalism, and reform), there has been nothing unusual about leaders declaring that the people were betraying the revolution--an upside-down analysis of who was betraying whom.

5. Iconization and demonization: These are two folds in the same cloth, creating new false gods--Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Maurice Bishop, Mandela, Che, Cabral, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, etc.--which places their work beyond criticism, and thus ritually kills any life that was ever in them, and demonization, set up by vicious polemics, uncomradely debate among people who should, or could, have been friends-or at least learned from one another. S.P. Bunting of South Africa, Lewis Corey (a.k.a. Farina), of the US, Bernard Coard in Grenada, and many, many others suffered this fate, and their contributions to the movements lost. 

Iconization makes palatable the split of leaders and followers, or the continued divide of thinking active subjects and objects of their desires, which Freire warned about early in his career. (Freire, 1972). Elites, like the Botha's of South Africa, learned long ago about creating a buffer class to protect themselves from the masses, a classes of the slightly privileged, rising out of and above the struggles of masses of people--like Mandela--who can be used to betray the principles (particularly equality and democracy) of the struggles they once enunciated. The other side of this coin is leadership treating the mass of people like "tap-water," the ANC term for the masses, whose demonstrations were turned on and off in order to bolster negotiation positions at capital's table. ANC leaders had no interest in a mass, critically conscious base. They wanted tap-water, flowing or shut down, on the whims of a few-not conscious witting agents of their own histories who could analyze conditions on their own, and act, without instructions from the ANC bosses. And, combined these processes make the grotesque betrayal of Nelson Mandela, possible, sometimes popular (Saul, 2001).

The fact that the iconization/demonization process usually flows from the top down, is instigated by elites, does not mean that mis-leaders, or agent provocateurs, should not be called out. They should. Mandela deserved criticism from inside the ANC and SACP. He got only a very little. But history seems to demonstrate that misleaders on the right get a much fairer hearing, and more wiggle room, than critical voices from the left--fair warning to all of us. In the ex-USSR, all of the old Bolsheviks were killed by Stalin, with the agreement of the central committee, by the mid-1930's. While it may be that none of them had an internationalist, egalitarian, democratic, Marxist-humanist world-view, taken together some of their ideas might have righted Soviet practice. Dead, they could not, which meant that struggle inside the party was simply killed off, hence the party killed off other than as a weapon of capital. A party that seeks to ride capitalist relations is a capitalist party, and necessarily violent. 

6. The reification of violence: Anyone who seeks to overcome the Master-Slave relationship must address the problem of violence, unleashing the anger of centuries-and every petty dispute that might gain vent. Yet those who do not want to merely replicate the past in new ways must teach abhorrence of violence, attach both sorrow and respect to it, and if necessary only to employ violence with the greatest care. I have seen how violence can contaminate an entire society, and a movement for social justice, in Grenada, and now in South Africa("Class hatred is good--necklace him!"), and I do not want to see the horror rise again. However, change is, at the end of the day, an either-or process, not and-both. If the ruling classes refuse to renounce violence (and there is no reason to believe that they will adopt the ethics of the Slaves) then violence it will be; but never violence with joy--only with profound respect for life itself, and the extinguishing of hope each death represents. 

In practical terms, the whole language movement of 2003 serves as a good example of a largely unorganized assembly that completely misunderstood that violence takes many forms, from banishment to encirclement to surveillance and pounding upon the head as well. With no solid organization, believing they could reason with powerful elites via letters to the editor of choice journals, the whole language leadership has overseen the destruction of whatever base they once had. More, they have allowed their brightest lights to come under attack, and done nearly nothing but make appeals to logic. Now, as Marx predicted of utopians in the Manifesto 150 years ago, the whole language movement, which once stood as a lighthouse beacon of what freedom might look like in a better world, has abandoned hope for a shift in the oppressive class relations that dominate today, and they grow reactionary, seeking to build uncritical reading circles in a society devoted to permanent warfare. No one opposes reading, or even learning to share toys, but in this social context, failing to oppose fascism in some form is simply supporting it. 

In response to violence, in all its forms, the old saw, "An injury to one is an injury to all," makes good sense. Taken in another form, in the words of the fictional western bandit Tuco, the Jackal, "Those who double-cross Tuco, and let Tuco live, they know nothing, nothing, about Tuco." When we link an understanding of violence, which begins with the accumulation of property and the exploitation of labor-and thus emanates from the Masters--with an organization sense of solidarity, we can send fair warning to elites who would seek to harm members of the Rouge Forum and our friends-and defend our own so no wounded are left behind. Such is our task, for example, with the case of the vicious attack on Chicago's Substance editor George Schmidt, fired and sued for publishing the Chicago CASE exam. We must not let George, or any other comrade, down (Tuco, from the film, "Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"). 

Violence, then, must be examined not only in its form, but in its substance. Did the violent revolutionary action of the Vietnamese in response to French, Japanese, US, and Chinese invasions deserve ethical condemnation; or the violent resistance of the anti-Nazis? I think not. But again, because I think their ultimate aim was off target, neither did it get them where they wanted to go. If, however, ends are related to means (if not determinative), violence must be abhorred. 

7. Front Groups: commonly manipulated and controlled by the party (though sometimes the tail does wag the dog) turning all concerned into alienated objects, as distinguished from the slow process of building an organization, a mass class-conscious organization, where each can see that collectively, with solidarity, equality, and reasoned democracy, we can understand and change the world. Front groups carry that pretense, but rarely the substance, of democracy, in self-defeating ways. Examples of Fronts? The CIO in the US, the African National Congress, the phony 'socialist' governments in the USSR, the satellites in Eastern Europe, etc. 

Reasoned democracy is, I think, better posed these days as Marxist-humanist democracy, to distinguish the vital term from what is now everyday capitalist democracy: the right to be alone, one person one vote, as if an isolated vote, taken with others, is either a measure of freedom of being correct. Inside the market's world-wide company store which snares everyone, democratic voting is more like being first in line at a sale, grabbing stuff, and howling, "Mine.!" Voting, choosing which millionaire will oppress one least, is perhaps the most alienating of all activities inside capitalist democracies (other than going to church), creating all kinds of illusions about ballot-box majority rule, when that rule can never apply in a workplace. The people of the US surely supported in their poles and votes the invasion of Iraq. But that democracy was only extended to people in the US, while the invasion, from which there is no retreat, hit the entire world, and those people are clearly opposed--but no one notices they have no vote. 

In philosophy, this bogus idea of democracy is form absent content. In universities, which now seek to position students as consumers, it is considered undemocratic to believe that there might be a reason that some ideas, even professors ideas, might be superior to others. This is nonsense, perhaps the result of years of postmodernist probes on campuses, but it strips theory from science and practice. 

Educators in the US are routinely offered the National Education Association's yearly representative assembly as an example of the, "largest democratic gathering in North America." More than 10,000 school workers from around the US (and the world) join together in this yearly convention, perhaps the highest form of union democracy in the US (any pretense of democracy fully extinguished in the rival American Federation of Teachers, and all of the AFL-CIO). The NEA school workers all have the right to run for top offices, to vote, debate, participate in caucuses from their states and in issue-based groups like the Peace and Justice Caucus. 

This may indeed be the high-water mark of US democratic activity in the early 21st century. It is counterfeit. The NEA represents the apartheid nature of the teaching profession, more than 90% white. On the face of it, it is structurally a racist institution. Taken with its racist history (only desegregating in the 1970's) it is deeply racist. Meaningful democracy cannot thrive swimming in a racist pool. NEA is controlled, for the most part, by a cabal of well-paid staff (averaging well over $100,000 per year) and even more well-paid and carefully vetted leaders (averaging about $300,000 yearly). Never in the classroom, always able to devote full attention to the inner workings of the organization, these people are in charge. While their own hubris may lead them to make serious errors (as they did in 1999 when the NEA leaders completely misread the members, and their own power, and lost a role-call vote to merge with AFT and the AFL-CIO), nothing is going to cause the NEA to consider overturning their slavish relationship with elites in the US. Examples from recent moments: the NEA remained quiet on the US oil-invasion of Iraq, and stayed neutral as the No Child Left Behind Act (a vicious Taylorist attack on NEA members and students), sponsored jointly by Democrats and Republicans, sailed through Congress. 

What we have lived with is not democracy. We need to imagine beyond our experiences to find new ways to relate to one another, through new ways of organizing. Marxist-humanist democracy is rooted in community. How can we best make decisions that not only get us from here to there, but leave us all fully witting of how and why we made the decision, and how we can best carry it out, even if we must shift jobs. This deep kind of democracy has some history.To make a leap, this is why the egalitarian democracy of the Chinese Red Army proved so superior at nearly every turn. It is how they worked, and how they could suffer so, yet still win. 

8. The use of democratic centralism to wrongly locate truth within the central committee-when truth is in fact a social relationship of testing for evidence and reflection, a spiraling form of praxis, an interaction between leaders and the mass of people--which closed the ears of the leadership and set them apart. This reification of what may be an organizational necessity, democratic centralism, led to wild shifts in party policies, but exhibited the simultaneous actions of (a) sectarianism, ordering things to happen and people to change, and (b) opportunism, tailing behind social and economic processes which are declared to be natural laws, or, importantly, failing to attack the whole of oppressive relations, choosing instead to address them piecemeal. (See Lukacs, A Defense of History and Class Consciousness, Tailism and the Dialectic p70-72).

This, then, turned democratic centralism inside out, rather than from the people-to the people, the line became: Do This. 

In the realm of theory, socialism smashed the dialectic. Stalin banished the key aspect of dialectics, the negation of the negation (that is, things change), from Soviet philosophy-and hence from the world socialist movement, even before he declared the end of class struggle in the USSR in the mid-thirties (Wetter, p312,355). This meant that Stalin could fairly say, philosophically, that there was no way to transcend what really was Soviet capitalism, or Soviet social fascism. Stalin declared, in the strife-ridden 1930's, that class struggle had ended in the USSR. 

In practice, socialism quickly abandoned the always-Marxist project of developing a mass conscious base of people who were subjects of their own history. Alienation was institutionalized, along with exploitation--and the legalized tyranny typical of capital's governmental systems. More, the truth of production, in that people have a right to control the process and products of their labor, was mystified by the pretense that truth was inside the central committee, which insisted that the truth of production was in capitalist-developed abundance, ie., the exploitation of surplus labor. 

Every aspect of every failure of socialism played out in socialist schools where, as quickly as inequality became policy, the methods and substance of teaching were stripped of freedom, replaced by surveillance and restrictions. In most schools, socialist or not, teachers have no idea about what value they create, or the surplus value they create. People who do not understand the value of their labor are unlikely to act with conviction in trying to control it. 

In Grenada, Freirian literacy programs, once flocked with volunteers, became mandated by the party (whose leaders had moved into the best houses on the island). The curricula was made up of uncritically praising the party programs ("first we create abundance under the party, then the benevolent leaders will share,"), and teenagers stood over reluctant adult-literacy learners with AK-47's, making sure they learned properly.

In South Africa, where the struggle was more prolonged, and the education system under a boycott that declared, "liberation before education," the upshot was a generation of youths who never went to school at all, and who now are subject to believe the demagogic claims of the ANC leadership that AIDS is not caused by a virus, but is a 'white-mans' disease, or a disease of poverty, and hence it is not necessary to release the anti-retrival drugs in the possession of ANC's leaders. But, with time, even this predominantly illiterate population is asking, "Well, if it is not a virus, but poverty, why not release food so we can eat?"

Outside South Africa, in the domain of the armed wing of the ANC, the MK, camps of nearly 10,000 people were established in Angola and Zimbabwe. Since the camps were filled with displaced youth, the plan was to fashion a fascinating system of education, revolving around schooling, industrial production, and agricultural production, in which all would participate in all. After a year, though, the ANC decided that the youths really needed to learn to pass the traditional English exit exams. This decision, in part, reflected pressure from both students and faculty, who saw the new form of schooling as tendentious. So, on average of about four days a week, the students got tradition English exit exam training, using largely traditional methods. In the remaining time, they got lessons in Marxism, led by the East German Stasi. 

Just as no society has been Marxist-humanist, and socialism was little more than a party nationalizing the working class, promising future benevolence, so has there never been an egalitarian and free educational system, despite the reality of some utopian beacons. There may be good classes, good teachers, good librarians and media specialists, good counselors, aides and other support personnel, inside capitalist (today, largely fascist) schools, but there is ,with very, very few exceptions, no such thing as a good, open, capitalist school. To suggest that there are good capitalist schools is to misunderstand the social context of schooling, and the role of capitalist governments. Good capitalist schools, I think, would be schools that are in the midst of serious social upheavals, perhaps closed by boycotts, and replaced by external freedom schools. 

Education for overcoming capital, transformative education, must be revolutionary education, probably going on inside schools, and out. Again, it may well be that the best schooling in the near future will take place inside freedom schools, established during periods of civil strife. And could we not learn the lesson from the ANC that boycotting alone will not do, that we must conduct real education for freedom and critical consciousness elsewhere? What would our transitional freedom schools look like? 

Do we want to abolish education? No. Of course not. We want to abolish the social relations that set up an educational system which only educates for voluntary servitude. The Master/Slave relationship which traces through all of written history, everywhere, means that both sides, and all in between, are imbued with one another, not just in a relationship of labor and exploitation, but in domination and subservience as well. Transforming that will require an epochal change of mind, one that our times demand (Meszaros, 1998). 

I underline: The path to a loving society, a community where people can live creatively, consciously, collectively, and not merely democratically, is probably only possible through great suffering. We should not play that down, or pretend that the overcoming of capital's ruthless processes can be mild--as in the deception of the ANC. If freedom is the overcoming of necessity, we will have to use both history and our imaginations to use processes of expanding freedom, within the existing realm of a decaying, and destructive, society. We should not despair in that, because suffering is the home of hope. People who have suffered and struggled, in that process, they define themselves and achieve a standing that is unavailable to others. People who have suffered can transcend fear, the host of hate, because they will have had to truly move in understanding from what appears to be, to what is, to what can be--because the processes of their suffering gives them a better understanding of what is essentially a Master-Slave relationship than the Masers can ever attain, and because their daily lives serve as proof to the Masters lies--- and in doing that they may be able to fashion a society that lives by the idea, which will require a massive international change of mind (and a calling off of the massive scientific industrialized slaughter), an idea whose time has come: From each according to their commitment, to each according to their need. This stands in clear opposition to what the zenith of capitalism today, summed up in two related ways; by a current mall advertisement in San Diego, "Don't suffer: Shop!", and by Conrad in Heart of Darkness as the ultimate declaration of imperialism: Exterminate all the brutes. 

This however, can only be achieved by overcoming, suffering, resisting, revolutionizing, with truly mass critical-practical class-consciousness: that is, with an eye on the Whole of the Master-Slave relationship, understanding that practice deepens limited knowledge of what that Whole is. Suffering, though, is particular. It is me, hungry, and it cannot be transcended without a conscious link to something more, greater, even if that is merely a link to a trusted friend, also hungry, struggling for a reason. 

Love, work, and the struggle for rational knowledge are the motive forces of history. Toward what end? As above, Engels described it as, "the leap from necessity into the realm of freedom." But where to begin? Practically, I have suggested that we begin in schools, and more practically, the question of social justice necessarily becomes a question of organization, which I will address later. But as an ethic, not a rule from on high ; an ethic born in historical understanding, every step of the process toward freedom must also include freedom, against necessity. To make an undialectical break of the two is to merely invert the failures of utopianism. 

For critically conscious poor and working people, freedom is the truth of freedom in social practice, it is won, not given, won through struggle, connectedness, discipline, perhaps even deception, solidarity, equality, community, engagement, action----as in science, as in good schooling, and in the struggle for control of any workplace which goes on every day, and in the love of partners, neighbors, and family, taken with responsibility and restrictions self-imposed.

Freedom, then, is a process, and in the context of our society today, it demands organization. This is the vital question that is posed to us this week at the Summer Institute of the Rouge Forum, the only organization in North America that has consistently applied an analysis of class struggle, internationalism, anti-racist action, to a fascist society, pointing to the schools as the geographical-historical starting point for serious cadre. How shall we improve our organizing, sharpen our work internally and externally? Our web site now attracts 17,000 visitors per month. We are internationally recognized, as my recent experience in South Africa and the presence of friends from 8 countries around the world demonstrates. But we also are penniless, without clear lines of leadership. What may be a majority of our activists, today, are young people. The good thing is that this bodes well for the future. The bad thing is that it means our people are required to lay low, to dissimilate, sometimes for years in order to survive, to get tenure. Since they were born in times of little struggle, their experience with on-the-job battles is already limited. How long can they wait, or how long do we have before fascism is almost irretrievably entrenched? 

It may be, on the other hand, that the appearances of our social moment (and the limitations of our social movement) foster despair, hopelessness. We can easily see the sheer power and seductiveness of elites. We can see many people apparently participating in their own servility, but this only focuses on what appears to be-and misses what is happening every day, the ineluctable processes of life.

On every job, in every neighborhood, and in every school, the motive forces of history are at work. People fight back, perhaps unaware that the less the fight back, the more they enrich those who exploit them, perhaps not recognizing the connectedness of their daily lives to the world-wide system of capital AND their brothers and sisters in distant lands. But every day workers and lovers and thinkers resist, because they must to survive and be human. They follow their curiosity because they must, even when every message of society is to hide, isolate. Sometimes these little struggles can become big, as in Benton Harbor's uprising, which I believe is a hint of things to come. Neither smart bombs, nor mercs, nor community sellouts and mystics could stop that rebellion from bursting forth. 

One more thing people need to know to be free: it is right to rebel against unfreedom. 

Love. Work. Knowledge. The relentless battle for freedom, creativity, beauty--these real forces move history every day. That comprises what is, as much as what is is imprisoned by what is, in essence, a vast international company store. These processes toward a human society, ready to burst forward inside the old society, burrow steadily beneath what appears to be. This is the potential within the actual, the evidence that an idea can actually leap ahead of human experience, and grow fast with critical practice. 

In every human relationship people struggle to reconcile authentic love, genuine un-exploitive human connections, with exploitative alliances (the mode of friendliness of the middle and upper classes, and most of the professorate), perhaps not recognizing that truly friendly connections, real love, is not merely the beacon for human survival, but the most successful method, already demonstrated, for human survival. 

The task of critical educators, Marxist-humanist educators, located in the centripetal organizing point of many societies, is to make possible situations in which we all learn, in interactions of students, school workers, and community people, that we can collectively comprehend and change the world. recognizing alienation, exploitation, commodification, reification of false permanence, are the way things appear to be, but also recognizing that the hope and truth of the world lies in the potential power of the unity of those whose physical and intellectual labor creates all value, and that we can be angry because we are learning, in the midst of systematic organized decay, to rediscover our curiosities, to intuit our intellectual and practical connections, to love. This is why the truth of the new society, and the Masters, is in the Slaves.

It follows that hope is a reasonable and more profound outlook for our times, if we struggle to make sense of what is going on, if we grasp that the lesson of history is that things change, and if we apply our critical-practical consciousness to what has been, and to the process of what ought to be. A better world is at hand not only because we must have it, but because all of history has positioned us to see beyond our experience, to use the imagination of the architect, to see what can be, made from what is-because we are not merely builders, but we are also rule breakers, in our struggle to be human and free. 

Besides, look at our opposition. If arrogant, unread, sneering, fundamentalist, puffed-up little rich boys like George Bush, or drooling, snake-handling, sexually intimidated fundamentalists like Aschcroft, and the criminal executives of Enron, WorldCom, and the top banks of the US, and the racketeer union leaders like the thief Pat Tornillo of the United Teachers of Dade County who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union treasury of school workers who must live in trailer parks, Tornillo father of New Unionism (Partners in Production), and his child rapist New Unionism protege, Tony Gentile of Broward Teachers Union, now serving time in a Florida jail for molesting kids; if these petty gangsters are the best the other side can produce, then we could not choose better enemies.

But, again, justice demands organization. The ideas of transformation, overcoming the whole, that I have described here will only become lost in the thicket of reformist activity, from voting to trade unionism, if there is no organizational base for those ideas, a place where activists can return to, a group they can build, in order to move masses of people to action for fundamental change. If we have one toe in the system, then our best foot must be in an organization worth sustaining. 

There is a huge gap between critical consciousness, the masses of people, and organizations set out for social justice. Our Rouge Forum publications must be improved. Our online network must become more interactive. Our actions on the job and off, improved, as well as our social contacts deepened. We need to find out, better, how to keep our best foot out of the system, while the other toe remains in. But there will be no movement, no praxis that will count much toward social change, if all we are is in. The break, the rupture, that I am hoping for cannot come solely from within. Without a thorough-going and true theoretical break-through of the encirclement of capital's processes, which can only come by gaining and testing collective knowledge, which requires an organizational base; all we will do is reproduce the stale and rotten trade unions and reform groups that we witness today, at best easily divided and conquered, at worst, corrupt, opportunist, and cowering, diverting people in the face of a monstrous attack. 

So, what is it that people need to know, and how do they need to come to know it, in order to be free?

Things change. This means revolution always seen on our horizon. Perhaps a counter-question might offer a benchmark to test: Do masses of people, individually and collectively, understand that things change, and how, and why, better, because of a given action or even a lesson plan? Did people become, in shorthand, more class-conscious? Or did they learn better to do what they are told to do? Did we have to trick them to get them to the meeting (by building a meeting on famous speakers, or by disguising our ideas about getting rid of capitalism, or by uncritically urging them into some union action)? If we tricked them, did they not learn, once again and above all, to be tricked and to not complain or even notice? 

There is also an ethic behind the next social change, an ethic that can give it a vision, a body, a collective, and a practice: 

We can, as a class-community, understand and change our world;

Reason, to gain and test knowledge--over mysticism and fear;

Equality: from each per commitment to each per need; 

All Must Rise: we have a right to rebel with deepening wisdom, and under every social system to demand control over the products and processes of our work, meaning, class struggle does not end;

Freedom--for curiosity, radical criticism, sensual inquiry, and the right to err; 

Solidarity, An Injury to One is an Injury to All;

Aesthetics, beauty...the right to art, pleasure, music, dance; 

Marxist-humanist democracy, related to mass critical consciousness;

Resistance and direct action in the least alienating ways possible; 

Education, to raise our understanding of the whole, and its parts;

Courage, the ethic that says: You Are What You Do; 

Internationalism, Anti-Racism, Anti-Sexism: 

Revolution, struggle: we are not all in this together; 

To overcome capitalism in total,

For survival, inclusion, and love-Harmony for the first time ruling disharmony.

We will win. Over time, we will win. In the Master/Slave relationship, it is too easy to see defeat after defeat. We need to remember that in our struggle, we win by defining ourselves and remaining sane, but in the long term, we win as well.

At issue is the depth of the human tragedy that will take place before we choose to make the massive change of mind, and revolution, that will bring the new world into being. But we shall win because.........we are human and struggle we must, unite we must, because such is the process we swim within.

Capital has nothing left to offer anyone. Even before the NASDAQ collapse, people with three SUV's began to notice that such good luck was just not fulfilling. Capital has inverted science, consider the huge scientific advances in weaponry and gas-masking, while 25% of the kids in parts of New York City are cursed with environmental asthma. Capital is attacking all that is beautiful, from rationality to aesthetics---the drooling fundamentalist snake-handling top office-holders who cloak the breasts on statues. But overcoming the processes of capital is going to require a massive change of mind-an urgent change if we are going to go beyond industrialized slaughter. 

Should we not panic, if this is indeed a fascist society? Probably. A sense of urgency should certainly be part of our outlook. But social change will not come by demanding it. It will come by persevering, by being patient with people, and by listening, finding just what it is within them that can help them to hear us--over time. 

Changing minds is the daily life of every school worker. Changing minds can happen one-to-one, through close personal relationships, friendships, which we have always set up as a key foundation for the Rouge Forum, and through more impersonal mass work, as through our on-line Rouge Forum News, and all in between. Most likely, close personal relationships will be decisive over time. What we do counts, more than ever. 

We will win. That will not happen by simple reasoning. The Masters will not adopt the ethics of the slaves. We will win by resisting, with a plan to overcome, and by learning from our resistance-outfoxing the destruction of reason and wisdom. Our resistance must be sufficiently conscious to ward off the structural and personal betrayals that have demolished every movement for social justice to date. Remember, at the outset, when I asked my friend the shrink what he does, and his response? "I get them to watch this, while I do this." We need to watch both, fit those moves into our social context, and ask what we have done to build a more conscious movement for equality today. If we have failed on that count, and surely from time to time we will, then we might ask, "Did we make friendships that can serve as the basis for mutual learning over time, in order to create the ground for social change?" Actually, we might want to ask both of these related questions, over and over. 

Just what is to be done will be the topic of this Rouge Forum Summer Institute in Louisville, June 26 to 29 2003-a time and place for us to take on our epic, and change it. We do not get to choose the times we live in. But we, especially those of us in the US, do get to choose what we do inside those times. Now, we define ourselves. I urge you to join us. Help. 


Adamic, J. (1934). Dynamite, the story of class violence in america, New York: Macmillan. 

Anyon, J. (1997). Ghetto schooling. New York: Teachers College Press. 

Bayot, J. (2002 June 29). Misery in mississippi. New York Times online at

Brecher, J. (1997). Strike, Chicago: South End Press. 

Coomes, M. (2002). California's prisons as markets and industries, Rouge Forum News, in press. 

Callahan, R. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Diegmueller, K. (2002 October 30). Unions labor to shape education policy. Education Week. 

Feaster, S. (2002 October 28). Where the jobs are. New York Times. 

Foner, E. (2001 September 20). Most patriot act. Nation, online at

Franklin, H.B. (2000, October 20) The anti-war movement we are supposed to forget. The Chronicle of Higher Education online at

Freire, P. (1973). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Freire, P (2000) Pedagogy of freedom, New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Gibson, R. (1994). Promethean literacy, paulo freire. Online at

Gibson, R (1997). What is fascism? Rouge Forum News online at

Gibson, R. (1998). History on trial in the heart of darkness, Theory and Research in Social Education on line at .

Gibson, R. (1998b)Rediscovery of class and hope. Review of Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, online at .

Gibson, R. (1999). NEA-AFT-AFL-CIO? Not just No, but Hell No. Cultural Logic.

Gibson, R. (2000) Outfoxing the destruction of wisdom. Theory and Research in Social Education, online at

Gibson, R.(2000, winter). Pay no attention to the man behind the screen, the theory and practice of constructing hope. Theory and Research in Social Education on line at .

Gibson, R. (2001). Interview with Tony Alvarado. Rouge Forum News,

Gibson R. (2002). How do I keep my ideals and still teach: methods for the social studies, The master and the slave, Heinneman, online at

Henwood, D. (2002, September). Industrial work. The Left Business Observer, online at

Goodman, D. (January 2002). Recruiting the class of 2005. Mother Jones online at

Harvey, D (2000) Spaces of hope. University of California: Los Angeles. 

Jenkins, P. (2002). The next christendom, the coming of global christianity. New York. Oxford.   

Johnson, D. C. (1999, September 5). Gap between rich and poor found wider. The New York Times online at

Jones, G. (2002 November 2) State in budget crisis. Los Angeles Times online at

Klare, M. ((2001). Resource wars, the new landscape of global conflict. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Kuttner, Robert (1985). Revolt of the haves, taxpayer revolts and the politics of austerity. New York: Simon-Schuster. 

Kohn, A (2001). Fighting the tests, a practical guide, Phi Delta Kappan online at

Krashen, S. (July 17 2001). San Jose Mercury News online at

Lindquist, S. (1991). Exterminate all the brutes. New York: New Press.

Lipsitz, G. (1994).Rainbow at midnight, labor and culture in the 1940's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 

Lukacs, G. (2000). In defense of history and class consciousness. London: Verso

Lukacs, G. (1988) Ontology of social being. London: Merlin Press. 

Lunacharsky, A. (1971). On education. New York: Progress Publishers.

Marx, K., Engels, F. (1988). The communist manifesto. Amherst: Prometheus Publications.

Marx-Engels Reader (1990), ed Tucker, R. Theses on Fuerbach. New York: Norton.

Magee, M. (2002). LaJolla wins academic autonomy. San Diego Union Tribune online at

Meszaros, I. (2002). Socialism or barbarism. Chicago: South End Press.

Meszaros, I. (1998). Beyond capital. Chicago: Monthly Review Press. 

McQuillen, J. (1995). Did whole language fail in California. ComminiCate Newsletter online at

Ohio plan would teach evolution as debate (2002, October 15). The New York Times online at

Orfield, D, Yun, J. (1999). Resegregation in american schools. Civil Rights Project, Harvard. Online at

Perlstein, D (2002). Minds stayed on freedom, AERJ. v39 n2 p249. 

Pang, V. (2001). Multicultural education: A caring-centered, reflective approach 2001, Teachers College Press. 

Rashid, A. (2002). Taliban. New Haven: Yale University.

Ross, E.W. (2000). Alienation, exploitation and connected citizenship, Theory and Research in Social Education, online at

Ross, E.W. (2001). Resisting test mania. Z Magazine, online at

Saul, J. (January 2001) Cry for the beloved country, Monthly Review. 

Serrin, W. (1973). The company and the union, Random House. 

Shannon, P. (1980). Broken promises. New York. Server Press. 

Shannon, P. (2000). Promises made, promises broken, Rouge Forum News online at

Strauss, L. (2002). On tyranny. Chicago. University of Chicago Press.

Wayne. L. (2002, October 13) America's for-profit secret army. The New York Times online at

Taylor, F. (1973) Principles of scientific knowledge. New York: Random House. 

Wetter, G. (1963). Dialectical materialism. New York: Praeger. 

Yergin, D. (1991). The prize. New York: Simon and Schuster.


To Rich Gibson's Home Page