Statement in Solidarity With Striking Teachers
An injury to one is an injury to all!
We, the members of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America, stand in solidarity with teachers in West Virginia, who have just won an unprecedented victory by their bold and courageous wildcat strike. Through their action, which shut down schools across a state where teachers’ strikes are unlawful, the West Virginia teachers -- who were among the poorest paid in the country -- have won a 5% pay increase not just for themselves but for all state employees.
The teachers of West Virginia have accomplished something unprecedented in their direct conflict with the ruling class and the state that protects its interests. We applaud their strike, recognizing that the neoliberal apparatus has slowly undermined spending on public goods and services, especially in education. This attack on the public sector impairs teachers ability to perform their jobs in a way that best serves their students. These teachers are fighting an agenda that ultimately drives the working class further into poverty. The capitalist plan to gut public education serves only those who are already wealthy.
It was a model strike in many respects. In the face of accusations that they didn’t care about students, the West Virginia teachers stockpiled food and distributed it in take-home bags so working-class students who depended on free and reduced lunch programs wouldn’t miss out on school meals during the strike. When the governor conceded only on condition that there would be cuts to Medicare, the teachers began to organize to pay for the raise through taxes on oil, natural gas, and coal extraction instead. The struggle continues and is hardly over. But all throughout this experience, the striking teachers have shown the rest of us what working-class power looks like in the twenty-first century through their shows of mutual aid, solidarity, and grit.
Others across the country are taking note. We applaud the similar boldness of teachers who are considering strike actions in Oklahoma and Arizona. In the former case, there is even word that the action will become a strike of all state employees! It’s no coincidence that this latest strike wave is taking place in “red states” utterly neglected by the liberal establishment and even parts of the Left in recent years. These regions have often been the most devastated by neoliberal policies, and the people who live there (some of them DSA comrades) are reclaiming old traditions of popular revolt and have a truly revolutionary potential. We support their struggle as working class people to confront the disparities that have arisen from capitalist decimation of public education and the general deterioration of workers’ rights and public goods under the capitalist system.
As libertarian socialists we aim for more than just pay increases and better working conditions. We envision a directly democratically run society, organized and managed by workers in accordance with their needs. We seek to abolish all forms of hierarchical domination that constrain our freedom. The West Virginia teachers’ strike -- just like any working class strike - shows that true power comes from the workers, not the capitalists, whether they be business owners or legislators. But we hope and believe that it is only the beginning. As this strike and those that it has inspired roll on in the future, workers must begin to demand direct control over their productive process, the transformation of workplaces into democracies, common ownership of the means of production, the abolition of social classes, and the democratic management of that infrastructure to meet the basic needs of all as an unconditional human right. (Those interested in furthering this vision at the point of production should consider joining our Syndicalist Working Group.) We congratulate the strikers and hope that their momentum will continue to grow into a force of radical transformation that will truly ‘build the new world in the shell of the old.'