Monday, June 26, 2017

Reading Politics in a Time of Crisis: A book review

Reading Politics in a Time of Crisis – A view from the Left.
By Duane Campbell

As we know, the economic crisis of 2008-2012 disrupted the U.S. economy.  The crisis was much worse in some of the peripheral countries of Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy among others), and even more destructive in under-developed regions of African and Asia.
Spanish political leader Pablo Iglesias TurriĆ³n has written Politics in a Time of Crisis: Podemos and the Future of European Democracy, published in an English translation by Verso Books. Iglesias provides a critical summary of the crisis that began in the U.S., and spread to much of the world causing political upheavals and leaving misery, starvation, and massive migration in its wake.

We can learn much from reading Iglesias about this crisis in Spain and  other countries and economies, including how the crisis led  several social democratic political parties in Spain, Greece, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe to collaborate with right-wing movements to impose austerity on the people.  This collaboration led to the collapse of  many social democratic political parties, the rise of  authoritarian right-wing parties,  and now the rise of a new left.  A similar process led to the collapse of social democratic parties in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.  Currently in Mexico the formerly left-wing Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) is working with the right-wing National Action (PAN) party while a new left –the National Regeneration Movement (“MORENA”) may well win this summer’s presidential elections.

Pablo Iglesias, a political science professor, is one of several leaders of Podemos (Spanish for “We Can”), a party of democratic socialism and populism that was born in 2014 and currently commands almost 21 % of the vote in Spain.  In just 4 short years, it became the second largest party in Spain while the traditionally left Socialist Workers party (PSOE) collaborated with a conservative government to impose austerity and lost much of its membership.
Iglesias’ and Podemos’ analysis of the economic crisis beginning in 2008 is that New York and London became the financial capitals of the world.  In the U.S. , the financial sector itself became the most powerful political force- a group he calls the Party of Wall Street:
“The Party of Wall Street is a Leninist party in its way: it is a class party with an international vocation. This party represents those who inhabit the penthouses of the economic system. It is the party that encouraged the selling of subprime mortgages that left millions of Americans homeless.  Under the Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, it is the party  that brought off a ‘soft’ coup d’etat  in Washington and forced the American government to inject billions of dollars into the banking system. It is the party that Angela Merkel belongs to; the party that controls the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund; the party that imposes structural adjustment programs on developing countries and swingering cuts on the countries of southern Europe[...]The party has been flourishing well before the 2008 crisis, always keeping to a very precise political line: to consolidate the power of finance” (Chapter 3)
According to Iglesias, the Party of Wall Street brought neoliberalism to the U.S. and Europe and  used its power to promote an unstable expansion of credit, while combating wage increases, trade unions and the existing welfare programs. The Party of Wall Street used the rhetoric of promoting free trade and privatization, and its political program was above all else a class project designed to establish and extend the power of financial elites.  The neoliberal projects are directly and closely connected to globalization of finance and the control of the economies of core nations.
I myself have been teaching a course here in California on our economic crisis since 2011, and  Iglesias’  descriptions of the processes that the rich used to loot the U.S. and eventually the world economy  are well-developed and supported by substantial research in the U.S.  His arguments about the Party of Wall Street moves those of us on the left beyond the endless debate about what stance left parties should take toward the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. 
This debate continues while we need to move on to organizing for power.   Meanwhile, a proto-fascist Donald Trump and his retinue have been elected, and have unleashed a reign of terror on the undocumented. They have proposed austerity and budget cuts in child care and health care that will lead to the deaths of many.  Their assault on organized labor is in the offing.
The issue is not good Democrats vs. bad Democrats and fascist Republicans.  As  Iglesias writes, the problem is the Party of Wall Street and how it must be defeated.  The party of Wall Street carried out a financial coup In the U.S. in 2008-2010.  The financial disease then spread to Europe.  U.S. and European banks and financial houses converted their financial losses to “citizen debt” to be paid by government austerity programs:
“ American taxpayers were forced to hand over their money to Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and other fraudsters of the same ilk. … the disease spread, and  outlying European countries soon found themselves in similar predicaments. Countries like Greece, Ireland and Spain, have de-industrialized their economies in favor of tourism, services and construction and allowed financial institutions to pump up property bubbles, now bailed out their own banks… Just as in the U.S., bank debt was converted to citizen debt, which ordinary people would have to pay off in the forms of cuts to public services and ferocious austerity measures. (Chapter 3)
The party of Wall Street convinced European banks that the existing welfare systems and union policies were too expensive, initially in Greece, Spain and Italy.  The effects of government imposed austerity have been horrifying: pension cuts, high unemployment, cuts to health and education systems.  “In Spain by the end of 2013, there were more than six million unemployed, a third of whom received no state assistance, and youth unemployment reached 60 per cent.” (Chapter 3) Austerity policies not only failed to produce growth, they have plundered the economies and created desperate situations for the young and the unemployed.
Perhaps more important than Iglesias’  view of the economic crisis from Spain is the way he and a new left responded- a left that became Podemos.
Spain, of course, is different than the U.S.  It has a fascist past and it is an economically dominated member of the European Union.   It is often called by the media a member of the European “periphery” or “south” as if it should not be considered a member of the Global North any longer.  Spain historically had a socialist government of PSOE, which participated in the government responding to the crisis of imposed European austerity.
Podemos was formed in 2014 based in significant part on the prior protests of 15-M (the “May 15” movement based around protests in May of 2011) against inequality, corruption, and massive unemployment.   In the elections on May 25, 2014, Podemos received some 7.9 % of the national vote and elected 5 members of the European Parliament.  In elections in December of 2015, Podemos received 21 % of the vote and gained 69 out of 350 seats in the Spanish parliament.  Since 2015 the formerly leftist PSOE party has been substantially repudiated for participating in the imposition of neoliberal capitalist policies of bailouts and tax cuts for the rich, and austerity for the great majority.  Social-democratic parties across Europe are facing similar defeats, including most recently the Socialist Party of France.
Led by Iglesias and others, Podemos has created a new form of struggle based in large part on the ideas of people working in the tradition of Gramsci. In Politics in a Time of Crisis, Iglesias reviews the histories of Marxism, and of Leninist parties and social democratic parties in Europe- and where they failed.  He  asserts that a first problem was that the conservatives were winning elections in part because the majority did not participate.
Iglesias argued that since the broad mass of people were not engaging in politics through the existing parties, the left had to go where the people were.  This was a war of ideology and of position.  In addition to local movement organizing, Podemos established a nationwide, web-based television program, “Tuerka,” to advance a left analysis of the crisis. 
With over 25 % unemployment, and over 50% among the young, the people knew there was serious problem.  The critical issue was to explain the crisis in common language so that potential voters could understand the role of the existing parties- the Party of Wall Street, in looting the economy, and the alternatives to this party.
Podemos created a new kind of open, participatory party not weighted down by the corruptions of the past, including corruptions of the established parties and labor union officialdom .
As in the U.S., the banks and the rich recovered, the poor and the working class did not.  And, in Spain as a de-industrialized country as a consequence of EU policy, the impacts on the lives of the working class were more severe, including a rise in hunger nationwide.
The banks were robbing the people. The debt in Spain was private bank debt that the government accepted to placate the Eurozone under threat similar to that of economic war imposed upon Greece..  Conservative governments and social democratic parties collaborated to destroy the Spanish and European social welfare state—including its labor rights—as they did in Greece:
“The central strategy of Podemos was to occupy the centrality of political discussion:  “in Gramscian terms in this war of position was to create a new common sense that would allow us to occupy a transversal position at the heart of a newly reformulated political spectrum.” (Appendix II) 
Podemos offered the population a left perspective in terms all could understand, and, they became the left.  It was not that Podemos organized a new left.  The conditions and events created space for a resistance, and Podemos created the formulation.  They did not create a left- the left existed. It previously lacked some explanatory power because economists, news media, and politicians were  funded by capitalists  and locked in old categories, not addressing the clear and immediate dangers of the economic crisis.  The old left lacked credibility, since it was often collaborating with conservatism to impose austerity.
Podemos recognized that the economic crisis was a political crisis.  It was created by the Party of Wall Street, and it could best be resolved by gaining control of the government through the expansion of democracy not by endless debates about Keynesian or post Keynesian economics.
The economic crisis, of course, is not limited to Spain, nor is the engagement of formerly social democratic parties into the Party of Wall Street.  Iglesias offers many useful insights including comments of the problems of the “infantile” left, and problems of institutionalizing a movement.  But, first, we have to recognize that the issue is about power and that the broad working class can seize power.
The chapter History: the Future Has an Ancient Heart, provides a detailed recounting of recent Spanish political history and the struggle for democracy since the Monarchy of the 1900’s.  The history is important since it was often determinant in shaping the PSOE and the competing labor union federations.  I am confident Spanish readers found many insights there.
Political conditions differ in the U.S., in Mexico and other places.  Bernie Sanders faced a dominant 2 party system and a presidential government.  Spain faces a multiparty system and a parliamentary government.  Mexico is currently in facing the collapse of the prior social democratic opposition – the PRD- and the rise of a citizen’s movement somewhat similar to Podemos in Morena.   The critical election will be in July of 2017.
Despite the differences in how our political systems structurally operate, perhaps we can learn from Iglesias on how a broad-based popular movement was created by movement leaders and activists, rather than an electoral party centered around individual candidates.
 I heartily recommend reading  Politics in a Time of Crisis. There is much we can learn by reading Iglesias’ insights about Spain, Europe, and political organizing.   The author offers valuable insights and examples for those of us seeking to create a left in the U.S. that can achieve power – as opposed to a left that talks primarily to itself.
 And then, we will have to write our own story.

Duane Campbell is a professor emeritus of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist, and past chair of Sacramento DSA. He serves on the Immigrant Rights Committee of DSA’s Anti Racism Working Group and as an editor of the Democratic Left blog.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sac City Unified has a Budget Problem - And its not the Teachers

 Sacramento City Unified’s plan for Local Control Funding is on their web site.
   LCAP Timeline and Process-  here.

See video in post below.

 SCUSD outlines its LCAP development process, Community Planning Process, timeline, and lists potential community partners to engage with in LCFF implementation. A new budget has been submitted  and should be on the web site this PM. 

Here is a counter  submission  by the Community Priorities Coalition in response for the 2017/ 2018 school year.
Our Budget proposal reflects our communi tys priorities and we request that you consider our Budget along with the District's staff Budget in making a very important decision on providing the highest qualit of education for all children.

May 42017

To: Jay HansenPresident
Jessie Ryan1sVice President Darrell Woo. 2nd Vice President Christina PritchettMember Ellen CochraneMember
Mai VangMember Michael MinnickMember Natalie RossMember
Jose BandaSuperintendent

Dear Board of Trustees and Superintendent:

The Sacramento City Community Priority Coalition (CPC) is pleased to submit to the Sacramento City Unified School District its 20 l 7-18 Budget as another budget scenario to consider.

The CPC coalition member organizations and groups consist of Black Parallel School Board, Building Healthy Communities. Hmong Innovating PoliticsLa Familia Counseling Center. Making Cents Work, PRO Youth and Families Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Democracy and Education Instituteand Public Advocates Inc.
Based on the input of our respective communities. the CPC recommends three major priorities for both the LCAP and the LCFF that we conclude will better serve the students of our communities. Those priorities include:

       Class size adjustments/reductions in select high need schools - beginning with grade 4-6 and gradually progressing to higher grades after three years of LCAP implementation.
       Culturally competent professional development to enhance school climate and ensure the use of effective and restorative discipline policies in all schools for all students.
       After school and/or other early intervention supports/programsdesigned to improve and further classroom performance.
The district needs to attract quality teachers that reflect the diversity of the students and continue class-size reductionaddress inequities regarding our low-income and high needs students, increase graduation ratesimprove professional development, and continue to improve community outreach and involvement year around. Monies allocated through the Local Control Funding process are required by law to be spent on increased or improved services and actions that are principally directed to meet the needs of specific target populations: low income, English Language Learners, foster children, special education.

In addition tincreased funding for class size reduction beyond grades K-3: specific funds should be allocated to meet the needs of the designated targeted populations. For exampleEnglish Language Learners need additional instructional assistance and increased efforts to involve their parents in their education programs. including bilingual counselors , teachers, social workers and other staff. Funds should be allocated to establish designated additional programs for ELL students in those schools with large numbers of English Language LearnersThese programs might include the use of additional certificated personnel, and/or classified staff.

We recommend that the budget adopted by Sac City Unified School District clearl and specifically designate wherfunds will be spent to meet these target populationsAt presentwe are unable to track funds from the district budget to serving these target studentsWe strongly recommend that this change. The district should specificalland clearlindicate the amounts ofunds planned for specific services and actions that are increases or improvements principally directed to meet the needs of each target groupand which funds have been planned used for spending on combinations othese groupsand which funds have been used for all students districtwidein addition to funds allocated bschool sitewhich the district currently identifies This level of transparency is necessary for parents , students and the community to be involved in a meaningful way in the LCAP development process and other district and school site decision making processes.

Making LCFF Work- in Sacramento

At the June 5, 2015,  meeting,  and each year since, the Community Priorities Coalition presented the Sacramento City board with alternatives ways to invest in our children. 

Funding of California’s k-12 public education system is changing fundamentally.  Some schools will get much more money to educate kids as described in the above video.  The centerpiece of the change is the Local Control Funding Formula, designed to send additional funds to districts where  “the need and the challenge is greatest.”  The law requires that  parents, students, teachers, and other community members be involved in the process of deciding how new funds are spent. 
Ed Source has an excellent guide to these changes.

    Sacramento City Unified’s plan for Local Control Funding is on their web site.
   LCAP Timeline and Process-  here.

 SCUSD outlines its LCAP development process, Community Planning Process, timeline, and lists potential community partners to engage with in LCFF implementation. A new budget has been submitted  and should be on the web site this PM. 

After submitting a report and requests for three years,   an updated report will be submitted on June 15 of this year.  As of yet, the SCUSD board has not responded  in prior years by spending the money the way it was  intended to be spent. 

Here is our submission for the 2017/ 2018 school year.

May 4, 2017

To: Jay Hansen, President
Jessie Ryan, 1st Vice President Darrell Woo. 2nd Vice President Christina Pritchett. Member Ellen Cochrane, Member
Mai Vang, Member Michael Minnick, Member Natalie Ross. Member
Jose Banda, Superintendent

Dear Board of Trustees and Superintendent:

The Sacramento City Community Priority Coalition (CPC) is pleased to submit to the Sacramento City Unified School District its 20 l 7-18 Budget as another budget scenario to consider.

The CPC coalition member organizations and groups consist of Black Parallel School Board, Building Healthy Communities. Hmong Innovating Politics, La Familia Counseling Center. Making Cents Work, PRO Youth and Families , Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Democracy and Education Institute, and Public Advocates Inc.
Based on the input of our respective communities. the CPC recommends three major priorities for both the LCAP and the LCFF that we conclude will better serve the students of our communities. Those priorities include:

       Class size adjustments/reductions in select high need schools - beginning with grade 4-6 and gradually progressing to higher grades after three years of LCAP implementation.
       Culturally competent professional development to enhance school climate and ensure the use of effective and restorative discipline policies in all schools for all students.
       After school and/or other early intervention supports/programsdesigned to improve and further classroom performance.
The district needs to attract quality teachers that reflect the diversity of the students and continue class-size reduction, address inequities regarding our low-income and high needs students, increase graduation rates, improve professional development, and continue to improve community outreach and involvement year around. Monies allocated through the Local Control Funding process are required by law to be spent on increased or improved services and actions that are principally directed to meet the needs of specific target populations: low income, English Language Learners, foster children, special education.

In addition , to increased funding for class size reduction beyond grades K-3: specific funds should be allocated to meet the needs of the designated targeted populations. For example, English Language Learners need additional instructional assistance and increased efforts to involve their parents in their education programs. including bilingual counselors , teachers, social workers and other staff. Funds should be allocated to establish designated additional programs for ELL students in those schools with large numbers of English Language Learners. These programs might include the use of additional certificated personnel, and/or classified staff.

We recommend that the budget adopted by Sac City Unified School District clearl y and specifically designate where funds will be spent to meet these target populations. At present, we are unable to track funds from the district budget to serving these target students. We strongly recommend that this change. The district should specifically and clearly indicate the amounts of funds planned for specific services and actions that are increases or improvements principally directed to meet the needs of each target group, and which funds have been planned used for spending on combinations of these groups, and which funds have been used for all students districtwide, in addition to funds allocated by school site, which the district currently identifies . This level of transparency is necessary for parents , students and the community to be involved in a meaningful way in the LCAP development process and other district and school site decision making processes.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.