What the cutbacks are and what actions we must take to fight them.

This talk: http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/pol/cutbackstalk0111.html
The handout: http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/pol/cutbackshandout0111.html

Thursday, 06 January
22. Class Dismissed: Economic Policies, the Academic Workforce, and Student Access to Higher Education
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 406A, LA Convention Center
Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Community Colleges and the Radical Caucus in English and the Modern Languages

The attack on HE is not motivated by "Yahooism", anti-intellectualism. That kind of language is a front, for public consumption. It is like the pretense, on the part of politicians, think-tank ideologues, and corporation heads that Social Security, Medicare, or other social-welfare expenses "contribute to the deficit".

We are wasting out time and breath to the extent that we try to come up with ever more convincing arguments in favor of the humanities, foreign languages, graduate study, government subsidies to higher education. Higher Education is NOT under attack. PUBLIC Higher Education is what is under attack – because it is a social welfare benefit. Reducing or eliminating it lowers taxes to businesses -- lowers the social wage – and so adds to profits while it reduces the standard of living of all employees

Social welfare expenditures, of which subsidies to state higher education is an example, raise the social wage, the average cost of labor. In doing so they lower profits. Tax increases to fund social welfare programs benefit the vast majority of employees but cost businesses, which have to pay higher taxes too but do not use these social welfare benefits.

So the cutbacks are not at all about "fiscal responsibility", "balancing the budget", and so on. That could be done by raising taxes. The cutbacks aim frankly to shift wealth from employees to employers. Tax cuts and all cuts to social welfare benefits aim to do this same thing.

Two-year colleges, like trade schools, are part of the "social wage", subsidies funded out of taxes to teach skilled workers some marketable skills so they can earn their employers some profits. Cutting them back drives current CC students into low-skill, low-pay jobs while making room for students who in other times would go to the 4-year system but now are forced "down" to the 2-year system.

It also subsidizes the military due to the "economic draft", working-class youth joining the military as a "job" -- a very dangerous and low-paying job. The US ruling class is going to need a big military forever!

American employees are enduring the sharpest attacks on our standard of living since the Great Depression.

The natural tendency of capitalism, much as Marx pointed out 150 years ago, is to force the cost of labor down to the minimum

Of course there doesn't need to be any kind of cutbacks at all. All the governing apparatus has to do is to raise taxes to pay for the social benefits, like college, medical care, etc., and they could be continued. But Democrats as well as Republicans have already decided they are not going to do that.

We, the exploited – and that means higher education, too – are ideologically very weak. Our consciousness has been hammered by decades of divide-and-conquer, individualist ideas: anticommunist, anti-union, racist and anti-immigrant propaganda, to the point that class consciousness is at an historic low

By contrast, the governing apparatus of the ruling class are always on the offensive, promoting of "conservative", authoritarian, "traditional", values and ideas in every area of thought and walk of life. This is always ultimately at the service of the economic attack, the aim of which is to lower the real cost of labor and increase profits.

Unlike us, the ruling class’s ideologues are very class-conscious. They justify cutting the standard of living of American employees by spreading the lie that somebody else is doing what they, in fact, are doing. (They can do this because they control the mass media).

A few examples:

These are all versions of the "zero-sum game": anything other employees get is taken away from you. Our job is to win people to take it away from employers.

What to do

We need to develop class consciousness. Stop trying to depict Higher Education as a "specially privileged" area. We need to understand that the attacks on public Higher Education are the same as other cutbacks against employees – bad for 90% of the population.

We need to spread the understanding among our students, the public generally, and ourselves, that the current attack on our living standards is the way capitalism functions normally.

We need to develop support for all those fighting against cutbacks. Students of course, but also campus workers, and workers and employees, unionized and non-unionized, everywhere.

We need to use our ability to write to propagandize our students and, through them, reach their parents, families, and friends, in order to spread understanding about what is going on.

We need to lose any illusions that the Democratic Party is "on our side" or can be won to being "on or side." The Democratic Party’s function in the system is to frustrate and betray movements for reform. While working with the Democratic Party we need to spread an understanding that the DP will never be on our side.

We need to talk about capitalism as a system, and how we need to develop alternatives to capitalism more successfully than the communist movement of the 20th century.