Workers Vanguard No. 965
24 September 2010
New Orleans Subscriber on Student Protest
Dear Worker’s Vanguard,
I am a very recent subscriber to the newspaper; I feel as though it represents my thoughts and standpoints in current events. In fact, the very day after I subscribed, a protest for the continuing budget cuts to our University of New Orleans turned worrisome when two of our very own were handled brutally by the police for occupying a building that is meant to be public and thus unrestricted to students. In addition during the scuffle before two protestors were arrested, one of them was maced and as a result of his pre-existing asthma had to be given medical attention before going into lock-up.
Here in New Orleans, as we commemorated the 5th anniversary of the devastating hurricane Katrina, we are bracing ourselves for even more disaster, namely in the form of massive budget cuts to two vulnerable areas: healthcare and education. As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal buckles under the pressure of Tea Party approval for his potential 2012 presidential campaign, the working class citizens are paying the price. His repeal of the Stelly Tax in 2008, which lifted taxes on the 2 highest income brackets, has cost the state treasury $358 million a year. The New Orleans Adolescent Hospital was moved across Lake Pontchartrain to the Northshore, making it incredibly difficult for children and their families of lower income to get the help that they need and deserve. Public universities across the state have also come under siege, with two universities on the brink of collapse. The University of New Orleans and Southern University of New Orleans are struggling to stay afloat while the unaffected and disengaged politicians go about their lives in the state capital of Baton Rouge. So what are the implications if these two universities, as well as other public universities, are gone? Higher education is going to be cut off to an insurmountable number of people coming from low to middle classes. The only universities that will remain are private institutions with astronomically high tuition rates. The result of the governor’s and his cronies’ foolishness will be a commodification of education, available only to the most affluent citizens of the state. Same goes for healthcare, as well. Access to facilities, medical personnel, and pharmaceuticals are cut off to those who are not in the upper income brackets. This semester is the last chance for the University of New Orleans to stop the 35% increase in cuts to our school. In the meantime, students and professors, both from the university as well as alumni and those from other universities, are exchanging and discussing plans for protest, resistance, and intervention. Our situation is closely paralleled by the injustices occurring in Puerto Rico; in both cases abusers of power have cut off money and resources to students, putting our education and futures in jeopardy for the sake of their greed. Although our past efforts have resulted in police brutality and arrests, we will not succumb to pressure and instead work even harder to maintain what rightfully belongs to the people.
We thank Shima M. for her letter and appreciate her outrage over the continuing devastation in New Orleans. The question is, how to fight it?
The oppression and impoverishment that exist under capitalism are not the result of the greed or foolishness of individual politicians, nor is this the province only of right-wing Republicans. From the Louisiana Statehouse on up to the Obama White House, both Democrats and Republicans are pushing through draconian cuts in social services, speeding up the deportations of immigrants and targeting the unions. Both parties represent the interests of the capitalist ruling class and will always sacrifice the interests of working people and the oppressed in order to maintain the capitalists’ class rule and profits.
In order to reorganize society on the basis of human need and, crucially, to put an end to racial oppression that is the heritage of chattel slavery, the working class must overthrow the capitalist system and organize a workers government. This requires the leadership of a revolutionary party that represents the interests of working people and the oppressed. As part of the struggle to build that party, we seek to combat the existing race and class privilege in education. As an elementary act of solidarity, the New York Spartacus Youth Club wrote the district attorney demanding that the charges against the two arrested University of New Orleans student protesters be dropped (see page 5). For the universities, we demand open admissions and no tuition, with a state-paid living stipend so poor and working-class students have equal access to an education. The campuses should be run by those who work and study there. We say: Abolish the administration! For student/teacher/worker control of the universities! We aim to win student activists to the side of the working class and to the struggle for socialist revolution.