Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Red-baiting never seems to go away, and today it has new forms

The Park Slope Collegiate 6-12th grade secondary school is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Jill Bloomberg is principal of the school. She and and two teachers at the school have been accused of belonging to the Progressive Labor Party, an old and useless sect. Bloomberg and the teachers are being investigated for being communists. Besides the matters of civil liberties and that we live in a time when the enemy is the right-wing, and not the left, it's worth remembering that this investigation---this attack---comes from the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, a part of a liberal city political administration. Bloomberg and the teachers are accused of possibly encouraging young people to join protest actions. Plasinly said, they stand accused of heolping young people exercise their rights.

We often encounter red-baiting and a related anti-communism and anti-leftism. It may be the local Democrats who refuse to work with socialists who are out front with their politics, its the anti-communist laws on the books in California which can't be purged, its union staff who want to bury talk of class struggle, its the people who buy into the alt-right lie that Portland killer Jeremy Joseph Christian is really a leftist, its the Clinton supporters who opportunistically attack the misogynist Bernie Bros as representatives of the left and its the Bernie Bros who announce that they're the resistance and are leading the revolution, its the Black Bloc people and the social democrats who increasingly support them, its whomever it was who mistakenly identified Kathy Griffin as a leftist, its the people who want to depoliticize social movements, or its the people who talk themselves out of being radicals and revolutionaries by carrying privilege theory to illogical ends which don't challenge capitalism from a class and intersectional position. These are not all the same objections to the left and leftism; we can't lump them all together. McCarthyism lives.

It's important to realize that we are not as far along the way to real change as we sometimes think we are. There can be no change without a left which has won the support of the working class and the people, so those who use red-baiting and anti-leftism are really objecting to struggle and real change. The upsides of this are that it should put a brake on a tendency on the left which poses as a vanguard, it tells us now what the balance of forces is, and it should obligate the left to work even harder to win people over to our positions. What our friends in the political center might miss is that their red-baiting and anti-leftism are often depriving them of needed allies and the solidarity needed to defeat Trump.

The following short essay was lifted from long-time radical and thinker Mark Naison. I couldn't connect with Mark to ask his permission to run this, and he may well not agree with what I have written above. His piece is a great recap of history which takes to our present situation.

The Sordid History of Red Scares in New York City Public Schools: Some Background to the Jill Bloomberg Story

As it becomes increasingly clear that the NYC Department of Education IS making Communist influence ( in this case the alleged influence of the Progressive Labor Party) a major subject of its investigation of Principal Jill Bloomberg of Park Slope Collegiate, it might be useful to recall the unhappy history of past efforts to uproot Communists from New York City Public schools

From the late 1930's to the early 1960's,such efforts focused on the activities of the New York City Teachers Union, a trade union which had some Communists in its leadership, which was competing for union recognition, from the early 1950's on, with the United Federation of Teachers. Although efforts to purge Communists from the NY City School system were coordinated by an alliance of conservatives and liberal anti-Communists on the NY City Council and in the NY State legislature, they were strongly supported by leaders of the UFT. Scores of teachers were removed from their jobs in the late 1940's and early 1950's if they were exposed as Communists by informers or took the fifth amendment when called before state or city investigating committees.

Unfortunately, the Communists removed from the school system, were without fail, the most committed and principled anti-racists in the New York City School system ( See Clarence Taylor's "Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union") people who challenged their racist colleagues, exposed segregation in the schools and fought for the incorporation of Black history into the curriculum. Not only did the purge of "Reds" remove many talented teachers who welcomed working with Black and Latino students, it significantly weakened the NYC Teachers Union and virtually assured that the UFT would be the organization to represent NYC public school teachers in collective bargaining Some of the consequences of the UFT's dominance would appear several years later when the UFT led a series of strikes against Community Control of Schools, leading to racial divisions in the NYC School system that would take decades to heal

Past history suggests that the DOE should have proceeded with extreme caution in allowing the "Red issue" to resurface in formal investigation of a principal as that kind of investigation has a long history of smothering anti-racist activism in the schools. And in a city that is as hyper segregated as New York City with a school system that mirrors that pattern, smothering anti-racism is the last thing the DOE needs to be doing

This is a shamefully misguided investigation.

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