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Vol. 73/No. 47      December 7, 2009

Education and the working class
Thousands of students and workers across the University of California system are protesting the imposition of a 32 percent tuition hike and the refusal of the university to negotiate a contract with the campus workers’ union. They deserve the support of all working people.

In the current capitalist economic crisis many of the attacks on the living standard of working people are being carried out by state and city governments. Four months ago California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a “budget balancing” package that included unpaid furloughs for state workers, closing of parks, and massive cuts in health and welfare programs.

Capitalist politicians in the state—Democrats and Republicans—are preparing a new round of cuts, which they justify on the basis of a budget deficit. From the Schwarzenegger administration in California to that of Gov. David Paterson in New York this is a fake and a fraud to protect the wealthy holders of the states’ bonds. The government in California

paid out $41 million in cash in July to its bondholders, who by law are the first creditors to be paid. In June the California treasurer promised that short of “thermonuclear war” the bondholders would be paid in full.

The sweeping tuition hike at the University of California system highlights the fact that the capitalist rulers don’t think that workers need, much less have a right to, education. The broader access to a college education by the working class was a concession wrenched from the rulers by mass social struggles— most recently as part of the fight for Black civil rights in the 1960s and ’70s.

Under capitalism there can be no meaningful education. As Socialist Workers Party national secretary Jack Barnes explains in the pamphlet The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism, “The purpose of education is to give ‘the educated’ a stake in thinking they are going to be different—slightly better off, slightly more white collar—than other people who work all their lives. In the process, the rulers hope to make those who manage to get a college degree more dependable supporters of the status quo.”

The opposite is the case for workers. “They need us to be obedient, not to be educated,” Barnes says.

As the U.S. capitalist rulers face the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, they aim to resolve it on the backs of working people around the world. They must roll back the social wage won by our class, from schools to Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid and to health care more broadly. This is the logic of the rule of the billionaire families, the dictatorship of capital. We must answer their dictatorship by taking political power out of their hands and establishing the dictatorship of the working majority where education is a universal right, a human activity from cradle to grave.
Related articles:
California: students, workers protest cuts
State gov’t raises tuition by 32 percent
Los Angeles truckers protest onerous rules  
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