There is a war going on, a war against working people throughout the country, especially in the failed state of California. Wall Street executives are getting bonuses and bailouts while workers get wage cuts, layoffs, and slashed benefits. As budget cuts come down across the country, California shows the way forward by refusing to take these attacks lying down.
Declared a failed state by many corporate commentators, Californias politicians are trying to balance the budget on the backs of workers, students, and necessary services. Instead of making the rich pay, the Democrat-controlled state legislature wants $24 billion in cuts and thats just a start. This includes $813 million in cuts to the University of California (UC) system. There is a proposal to increase tuition by over 30% while eliminating faculty and staff jobs in the UC system.
These cuts provoked workers and students to take action. This past fall was a season of struggle at the University of California: there were strikes, student walkouts, and mass demonstrations. Instead of just lobbying politicians or asking for the cuts to be less sharp, the people of California fought back with protest actions beginning in September, continuing through the time of print for this article, and planned for well into 2010.
September 24 was a day of mass walkouts across twenty universities. In preparation for this, unions carried out a month of community outreach, making the case that every layoff was an attack on not just the workers affected but on education as a whole and the future of the state. Picket lines were respected; students occupied administration offices and mass rallies in support of the strike were held throughout the state.
In October, there was a day-long conference to defend public education in California. Over 800 participated, representing students, workers, and teachers at all levels of education. The energetic but serious meeting decided on a course of action: March 4,, 2010, is intended to be a day of strikes and mass action against the layoffs, fee hikes, and budget cuts. Since then, it has been decided to make this a national day of action.
Despite their well-organized response, not everybody in California was happy with the brave stand workers and youth took to defend education. Top University administrators took harsh measures, announcing further fee increases in November. Students reacted by seizing administration buildings at six campuses. Administration and state officials then sent in the cops. Numerous occupying students were arrested. Numerous cases of police violence were documented, and at least one faculty member was injured. Students at UC-Berkeley held a protest in response to police violence.
Big business in California and throughout the country has plans for education. They want to make many public universities the exclusive home of the rich and powerful. For the rest of us, we have to look forward to a lifetime of mass unemployment and low-wage jobs. Privatization and union-busting is part of the overall attack on education.
The public education system in this country was won through mass struggle, and in order to defend and expand education, we need to fight back now. The fight in California shows the stark choices in front of us. If we do not fight back, then we know we will lose. If we decide to fight, then we might win.
The politicians say that the money isnt there and that we need to share sacrifice, but Wall Street is not sacrificing. The war budget is not sacrificing anything except working-class soldiers and innocent people in Afghanistan. We know they have the money. We see the bonuses, the profit margins, the bank bailouts, and the war spending. Education needs a bailout.
Strategy for Resistance
The future in front of us cannot become the vision big business has for our lives. We need strikes, mass demonstrations, and student occupations to defend education. The politicians of both parties are at our throats we need independent, anti-cuts candidates at the local, state, and national levels to defy corporate machine politics.
Lets give full support to all strikes and mass actions of workers and students in California on March 4. The best way to do that is to build resistance nationally to the attacks on education. We need to demand increased taxes on the rich and cuts to the war funding; this could take education and other social services off the corporate chopping block.