SF school board recall reflects capitalist rulers’ political crisis

By Terry Evans
March 7, 2022
Dr. Amos Brown, left, San Francisco NAACP president, speaks against school board moves in 2019 to cover up mural at George Washington High School. Right, Rev. Arnold Townsend.
AP photo/Eric RisbergDr. Amos Brown, left, San Francisco NAACP president, speaks against school board moves in 2019 to cover up mural at George Washington High School. Right, Rev. Arnold Townsend.

The ousting of three liberal members of the San Francisco school board in a recall election Feb. 15 is one more reflection of the political crisis wracking the capitalist rulers. After years of watching board members attempting to foist their “woke” politics on the cities’ schools, parents organized to put the recall on the ballot and won the vote.

The outcome echoed last year’s defeat of former Democratic Party Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, expressing the revulsion of working people toward high-handed actions by politicians and school administrators toward parents and students alike.

Democrats Alison Collins, Faauuga Moliga and Board President Gabriela López were turned out by resounding majorities of more than 70%. Democratic Mayor London Breed backed the move to unseat them and will select their replacements. López smeared her opponents, including a significant percentage of the city’s Asian population who voted to oust her, as bigots. “If you fight for racial justice,” she said, “this is the consequence. Don’t be mistaken, white supremacists are enjoying this.”

Under their leadership, the board drove to change the name of 44 public schools that López claimed embody “colonization” and “ties to slavery.”

In fact the name-changing exercise was an effort to wipe out the record of historical and revolutionary figures like Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell and Paul Revere. The effort to “cancel” people who stood at the head of the First and Second American Revolutions was widely opposed and eventually abandoned.

In 2019 the board moved to destroy a mural at George Washington High that portrayed the first president’s life. Board members and their supporters branded those who argued for keeping the mural — including Blacks — as “white supremacists.” Last year a California judge ruled the board violated state laws in its decision-making when it sought to cover up the mural. It remains on view.

Joel Britton, who is standing today as Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of California, was among those who spoke out at debates against covering up the mural. “Board members tried to intimidate opponents by their race-baiting, aimed at closing down space for political debate. Working people need to discuss history and the rich lessons of the class struggle to be able to chart a road forward today,” he told the Militant.

The board abolished admission tests at Lowell High School, saying they perpetuated “systematic racism.” As evidence it cited that 60% of students at the school are Asian Americans. In the furor that followed, it came to light that Collins had slandered Asian Americans in 2016, claiming they use “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’”

Baiting opponents as complicit with “white supremacy” has become the stock-in-trade of aspiring meritocrats and the middle-class left. They view working people with disdain, as inherently and irredeemably racist. They were determined to impose their cancel culture on parents and students in the district. Along with liberal-run school boards around the country, the San Francisco board resisted demands to reopen schools throughout the pandemic, imposing greater hardship on both parents and students.

The San Francisco vote delivered a blow to the anti-working-class politics of both the liberal and middle-class socialist wings of the Democratic Party, as did the 2021 election results.

This reflects the political crisis wracking the capitalist rulers, as neither of their two main political parties — the Democrats and Republicans — are capable of providing their masters with political stability. Nor can they chart a way out of the double whammy facing working people of skyrocketing inflation and worldwide capitalist economic stagnation. The World Bank forecasts that the economies in many countries, large and small, will remain depressed well into this decade.

And neither capitalist party has a way to defend the declining power of Washington in the world today, as is clear in the war moves unfolding today in Ukraine.

Above all, their political crisis is fueled by their fear of working people. They fear that we less and less look to them and their parties for a road forward, and more and more to ourselves, seeking to find ways to defend our class and stand up to the bosses. This underlies the hysterical venom directed by capitalist politicians and the press toward truck drivers and others protesting government mandates in Canada.

Because of the depth of the political crisis, the Democrats and Republicans increasingly act to strike blows at each other, upending the norms guiding the functioning of capitalist politics for decades. And as they do so, they toss aside constitutional protections working people need.

Attacks on constitutional rights

The Democratic Party-dominated North Carolina State Board of Elections is threatening to ban Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn from running for office, saying the 14th Amendment to the Constitution gives them the power to do so. One of the sections of that amendment states no person shall become a member of Congress if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion … or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” This was intended to prevent former leaders of the Confederacy who fought to uphold slavery during the Civil War from running for office.

The elections board claims that when Cawthorn spoke at a rally of supporters of Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, he lent encouragement to those who broke into Congress later that day. But he didn’t urge anyone to invade Congress or break the law. He exercised his constitutional right to free speech. Former President Trump also spoke at the rally. This move against Cawthorn is a trial balloon for Democrats’ hopes to bar Trump from ever running again.

Efforts such as these are a threat to political rights. Like all such efforts, they end up being turned against the workers’ movement and working-class parties like the Socialist Workers Party.

“Working people need our own party, a labor party,” SWP candidate Joel Britton said. “SWP members set an example today of what such a party can do — building support for struggles by truckers; for oil workers fighting for a contract at Marathon, Chevron and other refineries; and joining protests demanding amnesty for immigrants without papers. Everywhere they point to our need to unite and point a road toward taking political power into our own hands.”