Saturday, April 27, 2019

School Scope: UFT Election Results; Socialism or Progressive Capitalism?

April 26, 2019 -

School Scope:  UFT Election Results;  Socialism or Progressive Capitalism?
By Norm Scott

The triennial UFT election ended last week with the usual victory for the Unity Caucus, which has been in control of the UFT since its inception in 1962. President Michael Mulgrew received roughly 85% of the vote, with retirees being the largest voting block. Other than retirees, the turnout from working UFT members bordered on embarrassing. For instance, in the 20,000 member high school division, 3260 teachers voted. Without an effective opposition, the high schools, the only division where Unity has been weak, went totally for Unity by 67%, one of the few times that has happened over the past three decades. One of the reasons was the divisions among the three caucuses running against Unity. The rough order of total votes were Solidarity (7%), MORE (5%) and New Action (3%). As a longtime activist in the opposition, I shudder and question whether it is even worth participating in UFT elections, a waste of resources and time. You can read a detailed election analysis on my blog:

Unions are a product of the capitalist system and the salvation
The UFT is the largest union local in the nation and some 200,000 people are eligible to vote. Above you can see some of the negatives when a union leadership locks itself into lifetime control, but even critics like me would take that system over the alternative – no union. Unions came into existence in the first place when conditions become intolerable enough to force people to get together. There were no unions before capitalism (though there were craft guilds). The very idea of a union strikes some people as being socialistic, which leads me back to one of my favorite topics.

Since Bernie came on the scene, there’s been a lot more talk in the mainstream press about socialism, but often without clarifying the various degrees, from social democracy within a capitalistic system to out and out revolutionary socialism leading to communism.

Nobel Prize winning left wing economist Joseph Stiglitz was featured in two columns in the NY Times this past week. One was written by him and titled “Progressive Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron: We can save our broken economic system from itself.” The other was an interview with Stiglitz by Andrew Ross Sorkin: “Socialist! Capitalist! Economic Systems as Weapons in a War of Words.” If you are interested in understanding some of the degrees of socialism look these up.

Stiglitz is arguing for progressive capitalism vs. a total socialistic system where the state owns the means of production. Rather then the attacks we see on government, Stiglitz sees the need for major government controls and that is where he believes we have gone wrong and entered the realm of runaway capitalism via the rise of neo-liberalism to counter the New Deal imposed in the 1930s during the great depression. There’s a lot wrong with the way we are governed and much of that connect to a corrupt system where money rules. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Note: political liberalism in the US which promotes more government control is very different from economic liberalism which calls for minimal government – this version has been branded “neo-liberalism” – unfettered free markets – and we’ve seen that applied to our public schools system with the counter “choice/charter” movement. Stiglitz and others point out the fallacies of rampant neo-liberalism.

Last week I talked about how popular socialism was in parts of this country in 1912 and asked: What happened to socialism in the century since 1912? What happened was the October 1917 Russian Revolution and the resultant consequences, the rise (and fall) of communism and the confusions engendered between various brands of socialism. Next week we will have a primer.

Norm, unhappy with the working conditions at, is waiting to be unionized.

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