Heresy: why I support school vouchers

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Aug 2 19:32:49 MDT 1999

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<DIV>>>With a sort of universal voucher plan that you advocate, the poor
will go to *poor private schools*, instead of going to poor public schools. (It
will work like US health care, so the market will ration education.)
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    It seems to me you didn't really get the point, so let
me try to get at it another way.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>One of the
functions of the school systems in the United States is to reproduce the
stratification of this society, including the stratification within the working
class, chief among them to preserve and perpetuate the second-class status of
American Blacks (and other oppressed minorities).</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>In 1954, 
in the <EM>Brown v. Board of Ed. </EM>decision, the U.S.ruling class through the
Supreme Court saw itself forced to concede that Blacks were entitled to an
<EM>equal</EM>  education. Through the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were
countless struggles by the Black community and its allies to turn this promise
into a reality. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>What has
happened since then is that the dual school systems of the old south have
mutated and been reproduced by the parallel urban/suburban and public/private
school systems of today. While inequitable funding and resources is still an
issue, by an large it is clear that urban schools fail NOT through lack of
funding and resources, but because they are MEANT to fail. An often unspoken
policy guides inner-city school systems, that their proper role is to prepare
its students for a life of menial labor as cogs in a machine. Their overriding
mission is to socialize Blacks, Puerto Ricans, etc., for a life time of
dependency, super-exploitation, etc.; </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Even within the
context of this KIND of school system, the bourgeois educators seek to single
out and systematically promote to a real education children who show special
promise. The capitalists, who are rather pragmatic about many of these issues,
have been persuaded that it is far preferable to lavish an extra $1,000, $2,000
or even $3,000 a year on "gifted" students than running the risk of
having them start to take apart the system brick by brick once they get old
enough to understand it, by age 14 or 16. Thus the magnet schools, enrichment
programs and so forth and so on. The bourgeois voucher proposals are just one
more variant on this same theme.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV>    So why have the Black and Hispanic communities taken up
the demand for vouchers, and what it is that they imagine they are supporting
when they tell pollsters they are for them? It doesn't take a PH.D. in sociology
to figure this one out, given the history of the past half century or so.
They're trying to get for their kids the same education rich white kids get as a
matter of course.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    That objective can no longer be achieved through
desegregation of the public schools. Blacks no longer are in simply
majority-black schools; they are concentrated in overwhelmingly Black school
districts. White kids (and a sprinkling of middle class blacks and Hispanics) go
to suburban or private schools whose philosophy and approach is NOT to turn out
menial laborers, grunts for the army and so on, because such a population is
inadequate to the needs of American capitalism. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>The reason I
believe the Black and Hispanic communities by significant majorities support
vouchers, despite the fact that the people they look to for political leadership
oppose them, is that they view them as a "battering ram" to force open
the doors to the better schools, now closed to them because they don't live in
the right political jurisdiction or they can't afford to send their children to
private schools. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>In addition, I
cannot conceive of how breaking the direct monopoly of the bourgeois state over
the education of the children of working people generally can be anything
but  progressive. A state monopoly over certain things may be a wonderful
thing in the hands of the proletariat; not so in the hands of the
bourgeoisie. </FONT></FONT>    </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    I'm not familiar with the literature of radical critics
of American education; I've gone to school on this as a parent, living in and
around a city with a classical "inner city" school system (Atlanta)
and suburbs which are overwhelmingly in the business of providing an alternative
to that kind of education, even if one strictly and completely within bourgeois
boundaries. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    You predict that the net result of a change to a voucher
system will be zero. One could just as well have said the same thing about the
long bloody struggle against Jim Crow segregation --American apartheid-- over
the past half century. This is simply a repetition of the sectarian dogma that
since, <EM>in the last analysis,</EM> no struggle by working people over any
immediate, partial economic or political demands can <EM>fundamentally</EM>
alter the nature of the capitalist system, which will <EM>inevitably</EM> 
reassert itself, there's no point to <EM>any</EM> struggles whatsoever except an
open, revolutionary offensive to replace it with socialism.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Unlike
sectarians, parents with school age children do not have the luxury of crossing
their arms while they wait on the side of road for the funeral cortege of
capitalism to drive by. They invest countless efforts and (for them) huge sums
of money to try to spare their children the worst aspects of capitalist
oppression and exploitation. What Marxists should be about is to channel the
sentiments behind these efforts, which are <EM>entirely progressive</EM>, in
political struggles against the capitalists, knowing that only through such
struggles can working people understand that the entire system needs to be got
rid of, and only through such struggles can working people develop the
organization, sense of pride, and understanding of their own power necessary to
do so.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    </FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>
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Date: Tue, 03 Aug 1999 14:16:31 +1200
From: Philip L Ferguson <PLF13 at>
Subject: Re: Irish republican Movement, GFA etc
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>George: Of course "Catholic" workers were "confused" by the old =
>politics. All bourgeois politics, whether in its petty bourgeois form or =
>not, is designed to both delude and confuse the working class --this is =
>the ideological aspect of its function. If this were not the case then =
>there would exist a revolutionary communist movement within the working =

Philip: You have not proven anything.  You simply assert that a movement
whichfought imperiaism for decades, whose members were tortured, jailed and
murdered in the hundreds by the imperilaists, was really 'pro-imperialist'.
Your starting point is not even open to discussion as far as you are
concerned.  Then you simply fit everything in, and where it doesn't fit in
you argue that this just shows how deviously pro-imperialist republicanism

You are like those religious people who tried witches.  Since they believed
in witches, there was no way anyone could prove they weren't a witch.

>George: You beg the question by assuming assume what you have not =

Philip: George, I think here you are engaging in what is known as

>George: The point is the Provos never abandoned their anti-imperialist =
>struggle since they never engaged in such struggle in the first place.

Well, if fighting throughout this century to rid Ireland of British
imperialist rule is not 'anti-imperialist' clearly nothing is.

>George: The proof of the pudding is the eating: The Provos overt =
>acceptance of Partition as legitimate (in the context of the Good Friday =
>Agreement) and active enforcement of it by participating in a six county =
>executive provides irrefutable evidence of the pro-imperialist character =
>of Provo politics.

Philip: Like I said before, this is like arguing the Second International's
betrayal of the working class in 1914 shows that the Second International
was always pro-imperialist and counter-revolutionary.

The real point is that the Second International and the Provos
*degenerated* politically.  You seem to be incapable of recognising that
any movement *evolves* over time, in either a positive or negative
direction.  You have instead an 'original sin' version of politics.

Try checking out dialectics.  It explains how contraidctions are what the
world, including political formations, are made of and how these
contradictions work themselves out over time, creating something
qualitatively new.

My argument is that the republicans were a revolutionary nationalist
movement, with all the contradictions that involves.  In a specific (and
unfavourable) context those contradictions worked themselves out in a
negative way, and the republican leadership have undergone a
transformation, away from revolutionary nationalism and towards, indeed
pretty much into, mainstream or bourgeois nationalism.

>>Philip: But are you seriously suggesting the republicans are fascists?
>George: I never suggested that the Provos are fascist.>

Philip: Not quite true.  You never said *outright* they were, but you made
a number of comparisons which suggested strong similarities.  Likening the
membership of the IRA to the membership of fascist organisations is
scurrilous, extremely poor politics, and unlikely to assist whatever
political project you are promoting.

>Philip: Are you now suggesting that the Provos are comparable to Nazi =
>George: Your question makes no sense.

Philip: But you are the one who dragged Nazi Germany into the discussion as
a comparison.

>>Philip:  This is getting onto fantasy territory.  However unfortunate it
>>may be there were no other forces developing armed struggle. =20
>George: This is because the Provos disarmed any elements in the process
>of arming themselves. There were many cases of elements within the
>"Catholic" masses arming themselves independently of the Provos. They
>were in general disarmed by the Provos in one way or another. The Provos
>sought to bring all arms under their control. They used the ideology of
>nationalism to assist in their heavy handed actions to achieve this. The
>Provos did not want any popular armed militia developing that challenged
>their position. Apart form this to say that there were no forces
>developing armed struggle is to misrepresent the situation: The
>anti-democratic conduct of the Provos made the emergence of popular
>democratic armed militia nigh impossible.

Philip: Part of what happened is that the people in local communities who
got arms began to constitute IRA units.  The development of the provos in
the early 1970s was quite ad hoc.

They never tried to stop other left-wing forces from arming either: eg the
IRSP and even the original People's Democracy group which experimented with
a bit of armed action.

>>Philip: The interests of the British and Irish bourgeoisie were that =
>there be no armed struggle *at all*
>George: You misrepresent the substance of my posting, I never denied =

Philip: I don't think so, George.  You said that the armed struggle was
pro-imperialist and served British interests.  In that case, it would be
reasonable for me to assume that the British would welcome something in
their interests.  Or maybe the British ruling class suffered 'false
consciousness' and did not realise the armed struggle was in their
interests, and so foolishly decided to kill, wound, torture and imprison
the republicans carrying it out.

>>Philip: The problem was not that the republicans acted as tools of =
>>imperiaism, but
>>that the Movement, and its leaders, vastly underestimated the scope of
>>struggle necessary to win. =20
>George: You entirely misunderstand the nature of politics. The role of =
>any political organisation is not based on information, knowledge or =
>education. It is based on  politics. The bourgeois Irish Labour Party is =
>not a bourgeois party because it, say, lacks information, knowledge or =
>education concerning the real nature of the class struggle. It is a =
>bourgeois party by virtue of its politics and not because of its level =
>of enlightenment. Its degree of ignorance is neither here nor there.

Philip: Well, you cut my comments off in a rather important place.  Because
I did say, they didn't understand the scope of what was necessary because
*they were not Marxists*.  I did not say it was because they lacked
knowledge, information or any such thing.  I said "because they were not
Marxists".  That is entirely political.

But once again you have dragged in a faulty comparison.  Having in previous
emails made analogies with fascist groups and Nazi Germany, you now make an
analogy between the republicans and the bourgeois Labour Party.  This
doesn't work either.  Revolutionary nationalism in the oppressed countries
is vastly superior and qualitatively different to bourgeois Labourism.  It
is a distinction which Lenin and Trotsky were fully cognisant of, but which
escapes you altogether.

Re: IRA membership/class membership:
>George: This workerist conception of politics. as expressed above. is a
>leitmotif running through all your responses in connection with Karl
>Carlile's piece on the Provos.

Philip: Class membership is actually extremely important and not at all a
'workerist conception'.  The Bolsheviks were vitally concerned about the
class nature of their membership and supporters.  It was a mark of great
importance (and pride) to Lenin that the Bolshie paper was read and
supported by industrial workers in St Petersburg, while the Menshie paper
was read by more privileged elements.

When WW1 broke out, the Bolshies decided to orient deeper into the working
class to be able to withstand the pressures of pro-war sentiment which were
gripping the middle class and the less disadvantaged workers.

If you imagine that a gorup of middle class people is going to make the
revolution, you will be waiting a long time.  Class membership and
political programme *both* have to be proletarian.

Take a look at what Marx wrote about the Fenians.  He regarded the fact
that they were a 'lower orders movement' as extremely significant.  In fact
he said this was why they had a 'socialistic tendency'.  In other words he
explained a crucial aspect of their politics, its socialistic tendency, by
their class composition as a'lower orders movement'.  Their class nature
propelled them in a certain political direction!  But maybe Marx was just a
poor old workerist for having this view!

>George:  "Workers and bbs have some common interests and some opposed
>interests." >What a profundity! Imperialists and workers "have common
>interests and =
>some opposed interests" too. So what!

Philip: No, George, workers and imperialists do not have "some common
interests".  They have no common interests, in the Marxist sense.

>George: It is also a conception that elevates the =
>tactic of  entryism to a principle and philosophy. On one day it may be =
>entry into the Provos on another, entry into the Labour Party.

Philip: Where on earth does 'entryism' come in?  I am not, nor have I ever
been, in favour of 'entryism' into the Provos.  I didn't join SF as an
entryist, and anyone who did deserved to get biffed out on their ear.

I also do not support entryism into bourgeois-liberal parties like British
Labour (or NZ Labour).  I wouldn't even vote for the toe-rags.

>George: "The issue was which class position was going to dominate, as
>workers =
>and pbs have some common interests and some opposed interests." The =
>class position that "was going to dominate" is the class position that =
>had been "dominating" --the class interests of the bourgeoisie.

Philip:  Grief!  Just how big and powerful do you think the Irish
bourgeoisie is?  They had their hands full with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail
(and Irish Labour) representing their interests.  They are a only a small,
weak neo-colonial bourgeoisie.  They didn't have the Provos rounded up and
representing their interests as well!

The Provos represent the interests of those sectors who lost out by the
settlement of 1921: the northern nationalist masses, the working class in
the south, and some sections of the petty-bourgeoisie.  No sections of the

>George: conclude, as you do, that because there exist within a political =
>organisation petty bourgeois and workers there will also exist two =
>corresponding class positions  misrepresents the entire nature of class =
>politics and is an absurdly workerist illusion.

Philip: Actually my view is the complete opposite of a "workerist
illusion", which is part of what you suffer.

To imagine that radical political formations in oppressed nations, in which
a mass of underdeveloped classes and forms of consciousness exist due to
the underdevelopment of capitalist social relations and modern industry,
represent ONE class alone and are not riven by the same contradictions to
be found across such societies, is an incredible workerist illusion of the
worst sort.  It is banal and one-sided almost beyond belief.  And it is
totally alien to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky who recognised clearly
that revolutionary nationalist (and even less than revolutionary
nationalist) movements contained different class interests.

It seems hard to believe that this has to be explained to you.

>George:The logic of this is =
>that if in the Tory Part there obtain elements from, say, three =
>different "classes" there will feature in that Party three different =
>class positions. No!

Philip: Sometimes when I think we are at least living on the same planet,
you come out with something like this.

George, the point of analogies is to compare like with like, or as close to
like as possible.  You don't undertsand Marx and Lenin's view on
revolutionary nationalism, so when you make analogies between the Provos
and others you end up using fascist groups, Nazi Germany and the Tory party
to make your comparisons!

The Tory party represents the interests of the British capitlaist class.
Britain is a highly developed imperialist power in which class
contradictions have been simplified by the development of capitalism:
namely, it is a straight capitalists vs workers situation.

You need to understand the difference between an imperialist power and an
oppressed (and thus capitlaistically underdeveloped) nation.

>George: The reason workers join the Provos is because they =
>are dominated by the political consciousness of the Provos and thereby
>share their politics --petty bourgeois consciousness.

Phil: The reason workers joined the Provos was to fight for their freedom.

>>Phil: Very few, if any, such shopkeepers in the republican movement or =
>>its leadership, I'm afraid, George!  But maybe they picked up the shopkeeper
>>mentality from shopping and chin-wagging at the corner dairy?
>George: Trivia, such as are the above (should I even call them that) =
>comments, is no substitute for argument.=20

Phil: George, you are the one who dragged in shopkeepers as a way of
describing the republican movement's politics.  I merely pointed out the
silliness of your argument by developing it further.

>>Phil: No, my petard is currently definitely unhoisted George!
>George: Oh how funny you are Philip!

Philip: Thanks.

>>Philip: There is no contradiction at all in my saying the republicans =
>>were anti-imperialist but did not have the politics to carry through the

>George: One might just as much say that the Fine Gael Party is
>anti-imperialist but does not have the politics to carry through the

Philip: This too is nonsensical.  Fine Gael was formed in 1935 by a fusion
of the fascists, the old pro-Treaty party (Cumann na nGaedheal) and the big
farmers' party.  It would make no sense at all to say they are or were ever

SF/IRA is what Marx called a 'lower orders' movement which fought
imperialism throughout this century.

That you cannot distinguish between these two rather obvious opposite poles
shows. . . .well, it is almost not worth continuing the sentence.

>>Philip: Revolutionary nationalist forces are always confronted with the =
>>forward to revolutionary socialism or backward to bourgeois nationalism.
>George: I disagree. There is no evidence to support the above abstract
>subjective interpretation of the petty bourgeois politics  (what you
>call "revolutionary nationalists") of the Provos (Sinn Fein/IRA).

Philip: George, the 'abstract subjective interpretation' is yours.  You
don't like the Provos, so you declare them 'pro-imperilaist' against all
the evidence that they are anti-imperilaist fighters (or were for most of
their existence).

It also amuses me the way you say stuff like  "what you call 'revolutionary
nationalists'".  As I have pointed out before, this is what the Bolshies
called them.

>Philip: The job of communists was to link up with the revolutionary =
>nationalists, to support them including materially, and seek to win them
>by >argument and example to further political development.
>George: Clearly the above job description of communists is incorrect. It
>is not revolutionary communists job to assist the Provos to pursue their
>petty bourgeois pro-imperialists politics --their anti-working class

Philip: I said "was" and I was clearly talking about the communist response
to revolutionary nationalists in general, as I had just outlined Lenin's

I also made it quite clear that the job involves developing the *strengths*
of revolutionary nationalism and helping revolutionary nationalists make
the jump to revolutionary socialism.  Nothing at all about strengthening
the *weaker* sides of revolutionary nationalism.  Of course, the weaker
sides of revolutionary nationalism are not 'pro-imperialist' and
'anti-working class' anyway; those are attributes of mainstream bourgeois

>>Philip: If you want to just sit on the sidelines dismissing everything =
>>that moves no matter how radical it is and how gallantly it might be fighting
>>imperialism, then stick to your current arguments. =20
>George: The above constitutes a gross misrepresentation of the substance =
>of the common conception of Karl's and mine. Distortion and slander is =
>never a valid substitute for correct politics and argument.

Philip: I find this an odd objection.  You make analogies about the
republicans using the Tories, nazi Germany and fascist groups, declare
Ireland's leading anti-imperialists to be 'pro-imperilaist and anti-working
class' and then you take major offence when I suggest your standpoint is
suitable only for sideline commentators.

>>>George: The Provos never "fought imperialism to a  standstill".
>>Phil: Tell that to the imperialists!
>George: No! I dont think I will.

Philip: Oh, go on, be a sport!  The po-faced British imperialists could do
with a laugh and would be amused by your naive declarations that the
republicans have really been fighting for their interests.

>>Phil: And there is a rather massive difference between a movement's
>>politics having "an inherent limiting character" and being actively
>>pro-imperilaist and serving the interests of imperialism.
>George: You know, there isn't really.

Philip: You know what, O Yes There Is.

Syndicalism, for instance, had an inherent limiting character as well, but
that didn't make syndicalism a counter-revolutionary force serving the
interests of imperialism.  The most left-wing syndicalists were genuine
working class militants who wanted to make a revolution.

>>Philip: Because your analysis of Irish republicanism is so poor you will =
>>find that it makes no impression on the large numbers of republican
>>fighters who >>are open to Marxist critiques of the limitations of
>>republicanism and how =
>>these limitations have become the chief factor in republicanism now and
>>make a
>>break with republicanism a vital necessity.

>George: You know, its not really poor at all.

Philip: You know what, Oh Yes It Is.

But warm regards to you anyway.

And good luck with building a mass revolutionary movement in Ireland!


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