Newton, MA Strike! Student-Worker-Parent solidarity wins, opportunity to expose capitalist education

29 March 2024 418 hits

NEWTON, MASS, February 2, 2024—“When we fight, we win!” was the bold chant from the 2000-member Newton Teachers Association as they won their heroic 11-day “illegal” strike. Ninety-eight percent of the teachers picketed every day. Demands were for more social workers and behavioral therapists (needed for many students!), pay increases and work-rule changes. An excellent strike demand was for bigger pay raises for the lowest-paid staff, more of whom are Black and immigrants. It helped create unity among the various staff units. Under a communist system, we would abolish all inequality: we’d abolish money, and the working class would decide on the distribution of goods based on need.

It was the longest teachers' strike this century in Massachusetts. As in any struggle for reforms, the battle for better schools that would educate all youth will continue after the strike. Politically, we also need to be sharper as communists in exposing the role of capitalist schools in maintaining class inequality and promoting fascism and U.S. imperialism. Self-critically, the Progressive Labor Party (PLP)  played only a minor role in the strike, picketing and distributing over 150 leaflets to teachers and parent supporters. But we did make some new friends and introduced them to PLP’s ideas and literature.

The mayor and school committee controlling Newton schools claimed: “There's no money”. Yet, the affluent City of Newton had $55 million in surplus funds (for a “rainy day”) -- a parent said “It’s raining!” Newton schools have been under-funded for years with many Newton teachers not earning enough to buy a home in Newton or, in many cases, to rent here. Two Newton educators sell blood plasma or turn off heat to make ends meet. Even the raises won by the strikers won’t cover the increased cost of healthcare. 

All of the Newton city politicians serve the capitalist class, not students, workers, or educators. The strike stopped the city from busting the teachers union. It also showed how professionals’ living standards in the U.S. are being driven down—as Karl Marx predicted, the professionals are being proletarianized.

The courts work for the capitalist class

Communists always point out the role of the State (the capitalist government) in strikes. Massachusetts is one of 37 states with laws against teachers’ strikes. The courts first ordered an injunction against the strike and then fined the teachers' union almost  one million dollars during this strike, an extraordinary amount. Injunctions like this are part of developing fascism today as the crises of capitalism generate increasingly sharper attacks against workers in general. The Newton mayor published lies every day in her emails to the residents. The corporate media published their own fascist, blame-the-teacher lies. For example, a Boston Globe (2/5/2024) article gave space to a single anti-union businessman who attacked the teachers. Many parents and students actively supported the strike as did many other unions and individuals.

PLP attacked war, fascism, and the underfunding of education

Our leaflet pointed out how the U.S. Federal budget has roughly $1,000 billion for war and only $81 billion for education. The extra money Biden wants to give to Ukraine and Israel right now is equal to the total yearly federal education budget. Why, in the affluent suburb of Newton, does the city choose to under-fund the schools? Why, in this richest of all countries, isn't there enough money for schools, healthcare, food, or decent housing for all? The problem is the crisis of the worldwide capitalist system, with wars from Ukraine to Gaza killing hundreds of thousands. Competition among capitalists continues to intensify. Historically, capitalism in crisis did lead to fascism and war.

Today we see U.S. capitalists and their politicians, including liberals such as the Democrats, acting increasingly fascist ways.

We called for a Worker-Teacher-Parent-Student Alliance against sexism, racism, wage cuts, and imperialist war– against capitalism. We need a massive fightback, not just to win strikes, but to end the entire profit system. We need an egalitarian society. We need to support all working people internationally. We need a new political and economic system. Not the fake "communism" of today's China under Xi Jinping, but real communism: an end to the profit system and its inequities and exploitation.