[Marxism] Re: realities of academic labor vs. G's fantasies

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Tue Jul 25 08:14:06 MDT 2006

On Jul 25, 2006, at 9:28 AM, Louis R Godena wrote:

> Well, Mark doesn't present much of an argument here, other than he  
> worked all day yesterday.  Big deal.   My recollections of Harvard,  
> Yale, and other places do not include those of overworked  
> professors.   But, this was a number of years ago, and maybe the  
> situation has changed.   Everyone everywhere bitches about how hard  
> they work.  The fact remains that the academy has become a  
> sclerotic, unresponsive overfed monster that needs to be cut down  
> to size.  Junking the idea of a lifetime sinecure for *anyone* is  
> always progressive to my mind, though it may offend liberal (though  
> not Marxist) sensibilities.
> Anyway, enough said.
> Louis G

Louis is making the issue more complicated than it needs to be. He  
has a vision (fantasy?) of the "academy" like that of Paul Goodman  
and Mario Savio. The real one is a machine for producing intellectual  
workers. This fantasy certainly is an ideal to fight for, but not by  
taking the rights of the workers and giving extra power to the  
bosses. For this is a place of work like other places. It could be a  
MacDonalds, feather pluckers, airplane cabin cleaners, school  
teachers (a location also under attack but primarily by the Right),  
body armor manufacturers, etc. *

Under capitalism (and some forms of socialism), they could all be  
"cut down to size," reformed, or eliminated.

I don't know a great deal about "tenure" in higher education, but  
because my wife is a public school teacher, I have a little knowledge  
of it there. There is, of course, some dead weight, as there is in  
all the jobs that I have worked at, but teachers and workers know  
that good administrators can handle it. In fact, the greatest dead  
weight and the ones that pull down extra privileges and $$$ are often  
the special favorites of the administration. The lazy worker knows  
that he or she can endure by fawning over and supporting the  
bureaucratic machinations of the boss.

The ones that want to get rid of tenure want control over the  
teachers that are fighting for improvement, primarily against the  
administrators that would be given the power to fire then if tenure  
were removed -- as in the case of Ward Churchill, which we should  
recall, is where this discussion started.

BTW, hoping that I am not stepping on anyone's toes, it is a standing  
joke (reflecting reality or it wouldn't work), that if someone asked  
for former coaches to stand up at a school administrators' meeting,  
half the audience would rise. Many are not "educators" but people who  
like to run things.


* We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed. We  
asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get  
something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone  
conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that  
effect? And the answer we received -- from a well-meaning liberal --  
was the following: He said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a  
firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of  

That's the answer! Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and  
if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President  
Kerr in fact is the manager, then I'll tell you something: the  
faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But  
we're a bunch of raw material[s] that don't mean to have any process  
upon us, don't mean to be made into any product, don't mean to end up  
being bought by some clients of the University, be they the  
government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they  
anyone! We're human beings!

      [Wild applause.]

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious,  
makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even  
passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears  
and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and  
you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people  
who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the  
machine will be prevented from working at all!

      [Prolonged applause.]

Now, no more talking. We're going to march in singing "We Shall  
Overcome." Slowly; there are a lot of us. Up here to the left -- I  
didn't mean the pun.

> Mario Savio, December 3, 1964, before leading students into Sproul  
> Hall. Over 800 students were arrested, the largest student arrest  
> in U.S. history, followed a few days later by a massive strike  
> prompted when campus police pulled Mario off the stage as he  
> attempted to make an announcement following an administration  
> campus meeting at the Greek Theater.

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