Archive for the ‘Universities’ Category

Workers protesting in San Jose; pic: AP.

by Phil Duncan

The past few weeks have seen two nationwide strikes in Latin America, a region that in recent years has been playing a pivotal role in the resurgence of working class struggle and revolutionary left developments.

While workers in New Zealand usually shie away from even striking for just a day, workers in Costa Rica workers are now into the fourth week of an ‘Indefinite National Strike’.  The strike began on Monday, September 10 and on Sunday, September 30, workers’ assemblies across the country rejected the preliminary agreement reached by union leaders with the government.

The main issue is a (more…)

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by Daphna Whitmore

A substantial report on class privilege in New Zealand has just been published in the Herald. It’s a compelling piece of journalism by Kirsty Johnston with solid evidence of entrenched class divisions in universities, particularly in enrolment in elite courses. The class divide is not narrowing, as Johnston shows with data from six universities.  In law, medicine and engineering 60 percent of students come from the richest third of homes, and only 6 percent from the poorest third. Just one percent came from the poorest schools.

Johnston quotes Auckland University sociology professor Alan France: “We talk about increasing Māori and Pacific participation at university, but actually the underlying issue is socio-economics. It’s money. It’s class. It’s privilege.” Johnston’s report shows university  (more…)

by Guy Miller

“The beating heart of the labor movement.” That’s how the moderator of the Friday evening April 6th plenary session of the 2018 Labor Notes (LN) Conference introduced six West Virginia school teachers. The teachers were fresh from a historic victory in their unauthorized – and unexpected – strike. The same could be said about the conference itself: it represented the beating heart of American labor. The record 3,200 activists who attended the three-day Chicago conference were living, fighting proof of that

History of Labor Notes

Labor Notes was founded in 1979, just as the attack on the American working class was about to shift into high gear. The three founders – Jane Slaughter, Kim Moody and Jim West – were members of the International Socialists(1), one of several American groups tracing their roots back to Trotskyist origins. Slaughter, Moody and West realized that just creating a “front group” for the IS would result in a dead-end for their project, so they sought from the beginning  to create an organization that would support and encourage rank-and-file activity in the trade union movement.

1979 was the year that Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, set the Fed’s interest rate to a record high, bringing on what is often called the Volcker Recession. The double dip recession that ensued saw the loss of over a half a million manufacturing jobs, at the same time bringing the number of strikes to a screeching halt. This was under the presidency of (Democrat) Jimmy Carter; things only got worse under the following (Republican) Reagan administration. In 1981 Reagan broke the national Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and smashed their union as well. Meanwhile, the leadership of the AFL-CIO – equivalent of the CTU in New Zealand – essentially sat and twiddled their collective thumbs. The long, slow Thermidor of American labor had begun.

The height of organized labor in the U.S. had been reached in 1954 when 35% of the workforce belonged to a union. The absolute number of union members, however, continued to grow, reaching 21 million in 1979. However, by 2017 the percentage of unionized workers fell to an (more…)

As we noted here a few weeks ago, 1968 was “the year of revolutions” – revolutions in the Third World, the Second World and the First World.  Throughout this year, we’re running articles commemorating especially important events during 1968 and re-advertising articles already on the blog that cover 1968 events.

During the Tet Offensive the imperialist forces came under attack across much of South Vietnam, including in the US embassy compound in Saigon; it was the beginning of the end for the US and its allies in the war

by The Spark
March 5, 2018

In the night between January 31st and February 1st, 1968, during the holiday of Tet (Vietnamese New Year), fighters of the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese guerrilla organization of the National Liberation Front (NLF), rose up against the U.S. military occupation. They took control of more than 100 towns and cities, including the capital, Saigon.

Although, from a military point of view, the disproportionate level of forces did not allow the Viet Cong to hold these cities for more than a month, the world nevertheless viewed the Tet Offensive as an NLF victory. The NLF had proved that it had the support of the majority of the population, whom the ferocious war waged by the most powerful imperialism on the planet had failed to crush.

At the beginning of 1968, there were 500,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Vietnam. They possessed an ultra-modern military arsenal with an unprecedented capacity for destruction and massacre. There was no comparison between this force and what could be put forward by a small country ravaged by French and Japanese imperialism that had already been through 13 years of war.

Despite all this, in one night, some tens of thousands of Viet Cong fighters were able to rattle the most powerful army in the world, deep within its own strongholds in the cities. They went so far as to (more…)

As part of commemorating 1968, “The Year of Revolutions”, we are running the piece below.  It is the text of a talk given by Ernest Mandel, plus excerpts from the discussion, at the International Assembly of Revolutionary Student Movements, which was sponsored by the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the major radical youth movement in the USA in the 1960s.  Mandels’s talk took place on Saturday evening, September 21st at the Education Auditorium of New York University. More than 600 people packed the auditorium and the question and answer period extended for several hours.

The introduction to the pamphlet based on the talk notes, “Mandel’s speech was a powerful polemic against the tendencies of pure ‘activism’ and ‘spontaneism’ which have recently sprung up among some radicals in the West. He argued in defense of the Marxist conception of the indispensable integration of theory and practice. During the question period, Mandel gave extended replies to a number of controversial questions in radical circles today. Among them were the socio-economic nature of the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, the necessity for a Leninist party, and moral vs. material incentives in the construction of socialism.

A Belgian, Ernest Mandel took part in the resistance movement there during the Nazi occupation in World War 2.  He became a leader of the Fourth International after the war and an important Marxist theorist and educator.  He wrote widely on political struggles of the 1960s and was popular with radicalising students in many countries.  Mandel was the author of Marxist Economic Theory,  and a number of other important texts, including An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.  His The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx traced the main discoveries of Marx from his first economic investigations in 1843 to the publication of Capital. Mandel’s work was translated into a range of languages from English to Arabic.

by Ernest Mandel

Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the Berlin students, and many of the other representative student figures in Europe, have advanced as the central idea of their activity the concept of the unity of theory and action, of revolutionary theory and revolutionary action. This is not an arbitrary choice. The unity of theory and action can be considered the most important lesson of historical experience drawn from past revolutions in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

The historical tradition which embodies that idea goes from Babeuf through Hegel to Marx. This ideological conquest means that the great liberation movement of mankind must be directed by a conscious effort to reconstruct society, to overcome a situation in which man is dominated by the blind forces of market economy and starts to take his destiny in his own hands. This conscious action of emancipation cannot be carried on effectively, and certainly not carried through, unless man is aware of the social environment in which he is living, of the social forces he has to confront and the general social and economic conditions of this liberation movement.

Just as the unity of theory and action is an essential guide for any emancipation movement today, so Marxism teaches that revolution, conscious revolution, can only be successful if man first understands the nature of society in which he is living, if he understands the motive forces behind social and economic development in that society. In other words, unless he understands the forces that command social evolution, he will not be able to change that evolution into revolution. That is the main conception that Marxist consciousness has been introducing into the revolutionary student movement in Europe.

We will try to show that these two concepts, unity of theory and action, and a Marxist understanding of the objective conditions of society, which existed for a long time before the student movement in Europe was born, were rediscovered and reintegrated in practical struggle by the European student movement as a result of its own experiences.

The student movement starts everywhere – and it is no different in the United States – as a revolt against the (more…)

by Don Franks

“Still no sugar! We told you yesterday. You’re supposed to be our delegate.” 

My workmate had a case. The bag in the smoko room was empty and I hadn’t got onto the boss about it. Not taking sugar in my own tea, I’d been slack. 

“Ok Afi, I’ll see him right now.”

So instead of taking the usual time to butter the guy up I interrupted the boss in his office when he was busy and went straight to the point. (more…)

Below is the text of a talk delivered by Dani in Dunedin on Friday, July 21.

by Dani Sanmugathasan

Good evening! My name is Dani Sanmugathasan, and I am a member of the British Marxist and Leninist organisation called the Revolutionary Communist Group. The following talk will be on the topic of ‘Corbynmania’ – the opportunist phenomenon that’s swept through the labour movements in core economies over the last two years – and a good place to start is at the events in London earlier this month.

INTRODUCTION

“Oh, Je-re-my Cor-byn!” rang out the chants of many on the streets of London on the 1st of July at the People’s Assembly’s ‘Tories Out’ march. The People’s Assembly, Momentum, Radical Housing Network, the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the Socialist Party, and the large trade unions (PCS, RMT, CWU, Unison, Len McCluskey’s Unite the Union…) were all rallying round the Labour Party leader, the holy Son of Attlee, the man who would save Britain from the iron grip of Tory austerity.

But beside these organisations, a distinct second current of marchers – composed of such organisations as Class War, the Focus E15 Mothers, Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants, Architects for Social Housing, Movement For Justice, the Revolutionary Communist Group, and trade unions like the IWGB – led a different chant: “Labour, Tory, same old story!” These groups made (more…)