April Magazine Editorial: Women & Oakland Teachers Strike

Written by La Voz Editorial Team
This issue of La Voz goes to press in the aftermath of two important events which express heightened working class consciousness and movement: internationally, the March 8 Women’s Strike, and locally, the week-long Oakland public teachers’ strike. Both strikes show clearly the necessity of rank-and-file and grassroots self-organization and independence, and for the strike tactic to move beyond economic demands for improved working conditions and wages, important though these are, to political demands for working class emancipation from all oppression.
In our statement on the March 8 Women’s Strike, published here, we highlight how important the strike is in revealing the dependence of the capitalist system on women’s labor both paid and, most importantly, invisible and unpaid. Indeed the work of social reproduction which is done primarily by women and in particular Black, indigenous, and POC (BIPOC) women under capitalism is the labor that’s most flagrantly stolen by the capitalist class. We also point to the increasing recognition, in countries from Argentina to Poland to Spain and beyond, not least the United States, for the strike to be political: for full reproductive rights and equal pay and against all gendered violence and exploitation as well as all other forms of discrimination and oppression.
Who should strike? We argue that while it is essential for working class women and especially BIPOC working class women to take the lead, the Women’s Strike cannot continue being only a strike by women. We call for going further, for a general strike for women. As our comrade Florrence Oppen writes in this issue: “a feminist strike that only calls on women to fight against oppression and exploitation is a partial strike, and may not even be very feminist.” In other words, men in working class organizations such as unions, political organizations, etc. have to step up! They not only need to take over the cooking, cleaning, and care work responsibilities to allow women to go on strike, but they need to do the same on a routine basis in all our class organizations. Only in this way will our class organizations become real instruments of working class militancy.
Locally, the most important event of 2019 was the Oakland public school teachers’ strike, which followed the strikes in Los Angeles and an incredible year of wildcat strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky. It is now undeniable that there is a strike wave happening across the United States. In Oakland, our party, which includes a number of rank and file Oakland Educators Association union members as well as rank and file members of other Bay Area teachers unions, was actively engaged in strike support. We were part of the massive outpouring of solidarity from tens of thousands of working class Oaklanders. Along with massive rallies at downtown Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, the community lent its support through solidarity schools, food donations, musical performances at pickets, blocking the school board from convening budget cut meetings, and simply showing up to pickets at all hours from the crack of dawn to late in the day. Eighty percent of OEA members participated in the strike authorization vote, with 95 percent voting in favor; all 88 schools in the district were shut down; and at least 90 percent of students chose not to attend school during the week of the strike (and even more than that after day three of the strike). Our balance of the strike, written by La Voz comrades who are rank and file OEA members, discusses in detail both the gains and defeats of the strike, the way it showed both the potential for working class independent movement and self-organization and the dead end of bureaucratic and un-democratic leadership practices.
Our international and theoretical contributions in this issue engage with what we see as problematic trends on the left, clarifying our own position in relation to each. In the international piece, we discuss what a principled Marxist internationalism looks like, with particular reference to activism against US intervention in Venezuela. To begin with, we assert our total opposition to US intervention, explaining why it’s a predatory imperialist project. We also map the various progressive and left approaches to this issue, clarifying our own position of total support for the Venezuelan people’s right to self-determination while refusing political support for the Maduro government. In our theory section, we appraise the vogue for the electoral path to socialism that is currently occuring in the US movement. This new “Kautskyism” (named after the German socialist leader Kautsky) is exemplified by the NYU professor Vivek Chibber, who’s Jacobin essay “Our Road to Power” borrows both its title and its politics from a century-old treatise by the German theoretician. Although not a member of DSA, Chibber is one of the leading theorists for that organization’s most politically dominant caucus. In the first part of a two-part series, we unpack Chibber’s assumptions and draw out the implications of his argument and its potential impact on the current socialist movement in the US.

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