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Rouge Forum Update: Where we have been and where we may be headed


Dear Friends,

The Rouge Forum Blog is updated here.

However, a quick note on where we have been and where we may be headed:

In mid- 2001, we wrote, “This is the seiche time…From time to time in the St. Clair River, which runs rapidly along the eastern coast of Michigan connecting Lake Huron with Lake St. Clair, a combination of high winds and atmospheric pressure causes the river to split apart, leaving a wet marsh between an onrushing tide of water headed south, and a trailing wave of great power. The locals call this a seiche, and the long moments that pass as the broken water surges to connect with itself, usually accompanied by dark purple skies, they call the seiche time.”

September 11, 2001 followed.

Four years earlier, we argued that schools were even then the centripetal organizing point of de-industrialized North American life (and elsewhere too), that the struggles in schools would mesh ideology and money; sometimes colliding, other times in a perfect marriage.

We said any society engaged in militarism, imperialism, tied to a consumer economy, would surely move to greater control over what citizens know and how they come to know it. Schools would be key.

In schools, we said that six thrusts from elites would come into play:

1. Regimented national curricula (we used the history standards as a model).
2. Anti-working class, racist, high-stakes tests.
3. Merit pay linked to the tests.
4. More militarism.
5. Some privatization.
6. A full blown assault on educators’ wages and benefits.

We argued that the traditional unions and professional organizations would be worse than useless in meeting these attacks as their leaders are flatly on the other side of what is a class(room) war.

We said “an injury to one will proceed an injury to all.” It has, as we indicated, urban districts serving especially exploited populations and rural districts would be hit first, but middle class districts would follow–then even some of the richer public schools would be hit.

We insisted for nine years that a consumer society that has a vanishing productive base, a society rooted in spectacles, massive internal and external borrowing, and financial shenanigans was built on sand–and that the sky would fall. It did.

For a decade, we built school resistance around, mostly, research and action aimed at the high-stakes exams with some success in both wealthy and poor districts while most middle class district school workers muddled along.

In early 2008, we expressed sympathy for those who would vote Democratic, but suggested that relying on Democrats to make fundamental change demonstrated a key misunderstanding of the relationship of capitalism and democracy, the former then trumping democracy at every turn. We insisted that “capitalism has to be named.”

We said, “The core issue of our time is the rapid rise of color-coded social and economic inequality and the promise of perpetual war, challenged by the potential of mass, class-conscious, resistance.”

Over more than a decade, our conferences and our resources became community and comfort to educators who often felt isolated in this onslaught.

We claim no special foresight. What is most surprising to us is that in North America the Rouge Forum stands alone as an organized group of people who recognize that what is afoot is an education agenda as a war agenda, a class war agenda, and who seek to construct reason, connected to power, in order to not only push back, but transform our own lives and our society.

The Rouge Forum transcends the divisions of academic and social labor, rather than recreating them as do unions and the “professional” organizations. We include doctors, professors, k12 educators, support personnel, social workers, media specialists, librarians, parents, two principals, truck drivers, custodians, secretaries, retirees, stadium workers, construction workers, unemployed people, soldiers, union staffers, that is, people from all over world, the US to India to England to Grenada to South Africa.

The Rouge Forum News, our Broadsides, videos, and other publications reflect that unity–and our varying critiques of why things are as they are.

We close a horrific decade begun and ended with war heaped upon war—battles where the children of the poor kill other children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands.

We witnessed the greatest theft of wealth in the history of the world, the $12.9 trillion Tarp bank bailout (no strings) and the takeover of the auto industry by the federal government, finalizing what can only be seen as a corporate state.

On the near horizon, we suspect the Democrats will tax the existing health insurance of those who have jobs, dump GM, Chrysler, and Walmart employees into a debased pool of the barely insured, and let the rich off the hook once again.

What is ahead? Surely more wars, intensifying as imperial rivalries grow. China, Russia, Japan, and Europe all desperately need that oil, that cheap labor, that copper, those markets, the pipelines, and those shipping lanes.

The wars will come home in the economy and daily life. Our crystal ball isn’t clear enough to predict deflation, inflation, or devaluation, but the throw of the dice says rampant inflation.

In daily life, the assaults on reason and well being in schools will necessarily sharpen as will political repression, often disguised as protection of the citizenry. If resistance is not successful, all educators could become traveling adjuncts.

We have said persistently that people will fight back as they will have no choice but to fight back—and people will pull back when they see no alternative but to retreat. Will we make good sense of why we must fight? Will the fight be the isolating call of, “Save My Job!” and lose, or will it be, “When They Say Cut Back, We Say Fight Back!” and win?

Resistance is rising as the recent battles in California universities show. However, it remains that retreat is workers’ main move now–as the debacle of the Detroit Federation of Teacher contract ($500 per month pay cut, massive health care cuts, merit pay, teachers disciplining teachers–all as the DFT leadership hugged the employer; teachers ratified at 60% as they were isolated from one another, saw no option).

Justice demands organization. If we are to overcome what can now be reasonably described as the emergence of fascism as a mass, popular, world-wide movement, the Rouge Forum needs to grow.

We need your ideas, suggestions, comments, and criticism. You can post here at the blog or write any member of the Rouge Forum Steering Committee.

We hope you will spread the word, urge others to join our community, so the next decade will not end with the darkness this one has.

Good luck to us, every one.

R

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