Elections Rouge Note 2008

The election results are in; a landslide in the electoral college and a pretty good pounding in the popular vote. However, it’s not a full mandate. After all, about 40 percent of eligible voters did not vote which may indicate apathy, sophistication or both. McCain, despite his moving zombie caricature and half-wit vice presidential pick, got about 47% of the vote. Can the ruling class declare a mandate for expanded war? Probably. Can they interpret this as ratifying an accelerated attack on poor and working people? Maybe.

The “all-class unity, we are all in this together,” notion that propels the mainstream of pseudo-multiculturalist nationalism may play well for some time.

Americans embody many a-historical and self-contradictory ideas. The Church, for centuries, has made Bishops of bright children of the poor and used them to guarantee the tithe–nothing unusual about that at all. Many people voting passionately for equality and The Obamagogue also voted to ban gay marriage. History suggests charismatic (The One) nationalists can be dangerous. Many people think Obama will end the wars when in fact he promises not to.

Nobody voted for their own layoff or to self-impose regressive taxes, but that’s what they will get. More than 800,000 people were laid off so far in 2008 and that number will surely top a million. Many Boeing workers, who struck their company for six weeks, are patriotic, eager to work for a war criminal company for good wages and benefits, but not if the company doesn't pay them well. Still, the patriotism of some Boeing workers came to an end with this bitter strike. Many people are full of hope, hollow hope I believe, and raised expectations are something to work with.

Part of our task is to make those connections, to demonstrate again and again why war and financial collapse, or imperialism and depression, the government as an executive committee of the rich, hardly democracy; are necessarily tied as one–why is there an international war of the rich on the poor? Then, to connect that reasoning to power.
Let us peek into issues likely to be in focus for our RF conference next May.

It is fair to say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue, as promised. The US cannot and will not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan both because of oil and because of their geo-political importance. More, the US cannot allow enemies to see the US so easily defeated. The Russians already probed and the US was unable to respond.

Secondly, the US economy will be in a shambles but not in a shambles for everyone. Some people will win, others will lose, the vast majority being in the latter group. It is capitalism, those hurt first and most set up on a ladder by inherited income, race, and to a degree, language/disability.
Maneuvers from the Federal Reserve system in lowering interest rates impact the stock market a bit, as we have seen, but they have nothing to do with mortgage rates or resolving foreclosures. In effect, lowering the interest rate just deepens the robbery that took place before the election: more than 700 billion dollars to the bankers who partied on. Obama voted for that. Indeed, the most sane vote this year took place before the election, when the bankster bailout was opposed by by people in the US fifty to one, but there was no organized opposition to take to the streets when the united political class side-stepped and stole the money anyway.

As education workers are among the last in the US who have predictable wages and health benefits, and some job security, it is reasonable to think those workers will be in a bulls-eye. Though they are the most unionized people in the US, the unions have done nothing to prepare school workers for the period ahead, and for quite awhile union executives will do all they can to halt any kind of real struggle "in order to give Obama a chance.” Indeed, union bosses will seek to tamp down the expectations of children, parents and educators while the mis-leaders sell concessions as part of backing Obama when, in fact, making concessions is like giving blood to sharks. Thirty years of labor history, and the United Auto Workers Union, proves it. Concessions don’t save jobs. The sharks only want more.

But the real target of schooling is not teachers but kids, what they know and how they come to know it--and under what conditions. I think we can safely bet there will be a continuing effort to regulate curricula, to ratchet down freedom through testing, and to continue the military assault on schools. Obama is for all of that. Then throw in merit pay, charters (good and bad), and the privatizers like Gates and Broad who are not the main force in schooling, but cannot be ignored.

Given Obama’s recent appointments, it appears our guess that he plans, over time, to impose some form of national service as an escape route from the draft for white collar kids, while poor kids are conscripted. It may be that the immigration funnel, bringing truly hungry youth into the US military under false promises of promotions and citizenship will make that unnecessary.

There may have been some difference between Obama and McCain relating to repressive measures, though Obama's vote on the surveillance bills suggests there is not. The more unnoticed repression in daily life in, say, black communities, may or may not ease up with Obama elected---but the economy will not ease up. I bet we witness an accelerated attack on poor and working people with a pincer move involving social service, education, and health care (an almost unnoticed Achilles' heel of the economy that may blow up) cuts on one blade and joblessness, foreclosures, and regressive taxes on the other. Will immigration raids be as severe? I am not sure. All of that will surely impact kids in classrooms, and educators as well.

My guess, and it is a coin-toss guess, is that the result of the trillion dollar wars and the likely-to-be-repeated bailouts will be inflation. Right now, we see a deflationary economy---the crux of the Big Depression. I find it hard to imagine that Obama would let that happen again. But the only way to stop it is to print money---meaning inflation, maybe rampant inflation, but how much is hard to predict. Where will the money that is printed come from? Probably regressive taxation. Here in California, the California Teachers Association is already preparing to launch a multi-million dollar ballot initiative that will be just that.

In either case, inflation or deflation, the rich can take measures to offset the impact. People who live paycheck to paycheck cannot. Moreover, insider information is important. If it is your pal's bank, he will probably tell you the day before it closes.
The election turnout is significant. So is the billion dollar check that was written to produce a turnout—Obama, the demagogue, spending about $700 million. The turnout was one of the highest, in terms of percentage, in the last 100 years. The hysteria that surrounds rock-star Obama was bought and paid. If the vote turnout was 30%, the entire ruling class of the US would have to rethink what they are doing.

So, what do we want to know and how do we want to come to know it in what we foresee as the world ahead of us?

As just one of many voices in the RF (we are growing incrementally as we have over the last five years, but not spectacularly), I want people to come to grips with the system of capital, capitalist democracy, imperialism–and social revolution: a marxist analysis.

I don't expect anyone to agree with that, but would like for it to be heard. And to some extent it is.

But there is more. What we have not addressed enough is something I think Wayne Ross was pointing at in his speech at the Rouge Forum Conference in Louisville: the moral and ethical aspect of this.

I think we need to have, and have, the high moral ground. What we do is right, not just correct. What THEY do is wrong, venal, corrupt, often incompetent (it is remarkable that NPR's chief economic consultant Paul Solomon called the political class in the US, "pygmies") and deadly.

The only way to truly eliminate the ideologically, politically, and economically insurgent groups the US is facing is to exterminate the populations they operate in. In the case of US Indians, that was possible as all that was wanted from them was their land. And it was mostly done. In the case of some insurgencies the US faces, that is not possible, as the US needs their labor as well as their natural resources, and to some extent the US needs consent as, today, it is nearly impossible to rule without consent. Consent, though, is evaporating---except inside the US where the poor continue to volunteer to fight and die on behalf of the rich in their homeland.

So, what that means to me is that the US is trapped in a series of problems that cannot be solved (within the system of capital) and those problems are now truly international (Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, China, etc etc) and they differ from region to region.

Teachers in the last decade have largely succumbed to the strictures of NCLB, and, in my eyes, conducted child abuse nearly every day of the school year. But school workers are about to run into the economy and the bribe of fairly good wages and benefits in exchange for child abuse is going to vanish.
School workers will resist cutbacks. At some point, they will have to. At issue is whether sense can be made of the necessity to resist. If not, if educators take a narrow stand of merely seeking to protect wages and benefits, and abandon kids by allowing class size to boom or continuing to conduct racist high stakes exams; then those school workers will be alienated from the key sources of their power—kids and parents–and they will lose. What is clearly needed is class solidarity and direct action. No union can produce that. The Rouge Forum can, at least, be a beacon for it.

So, back to Wayne Ross’ point. This is indeed a material struggle against war, exploitation, for equality, freedom and justice. But it is also a question of right vs wrong. Sure, we must always be open to people who want to change their lives and resist, but we also need to raise the moral, ethical, banner and challenge people on the grounds: You Are What You Do. There is passion in that, and it is connection reason to passion that can actually bring actions that change people’s minds.

After good discussion among a lot of friends on the Rouge Forum Steering Committee, people here in San Diego and some around the country, the Steering Committee would like to suggest this as a theme for our conference:

"Education, Empire, Economy, and Ethics At the Crossroads:
What Do We Want to Know and How Do We Want to Come to Know It?"