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The Teachers Can Organize
with Aid of Workers

(September 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 42, 9 September 1933, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The fight of the teachers in defense of their living and teaching conditions cannot be won by themselves alone. The experience of the Chicago and Havana teachers, to take only recent events, proves this. The militant mass demonstrations of the Chicago teachers were successful in winning a measure of relief. But the attacks on the school system and on the teachers directly and indirectly are not only continued but intensified. In Cuba it required the action of the entire population to unseat the dictator who oppressed the country including the teachers.

The teachers are employees of the state. In defense of their interests they must contend directly against its enormous power and manifold apparatus of coercion and repression. The character of the movement which can successfully resist its onslaughts is indicated by the hurricane which swept Machado out of office. Such a movement the teachers cannot build nor even lead.

In a word the teachers movement must seek allies among those strata of the population whose interests bring them into conflict with the state. Real estate associations, chambers of commerce, civic betterment societies, etc., etc., sometimes fight government policies in pursuit of their special interests, principally in the matter of reduction of taxes. But this coincidence is more apparent than real. Real estate associations everywhere are now pressing for reduction in taxes at the expense of the school system and the living and teaching conditions pf the teachers. The present drastic economy program in education is proceeding under the whip of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

More fundamentally, the real estate associations and chambers of commerce are the organizations of the ruling classes who instigate and carry through the attacks on the teachers THROUGH THE STATE. The state is their state. Their conflict with it is an attempt to REFORM ITS POLICIES IN THEIR INTEREST AT THE EXPENSE OF THE WORKING CLASSES WHICH INCLUDE THE TEACHERS. That is why they were not found in the ranks of the demonstrators in Chicago and Havana. If the teachers depend on them they will be betrayed. That is inevitable.

The position of teachers in capitalist society as a section of the working class marks out the road they must travel in resisting the blows of the capitalist class. They must join hands with the workers. Only the working class movement of which the teachers must become a part, as they have in France, can solve the problems of the free school system and the living and teaching conditions of the teachers.

This fundamental orientation must be reflected in the policies of the teachers movement and its organizational forms. The organization of teachers unions has already given the historic answer to the question: what organizational forms shall the teachers movement take? It follows that the basic organizational form of the teachers resistance is the trade union. And it makes it necessary for the teachers to enter the trade union movement. The defense of culture leads to the trade union movement.

This fundamental orientation and this fundamental organizational form does not exclude other, temporary forms of organized resistance. But it indicates the relation in which they must stand toward the teachers trade unions and the trade union movement.

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Last updated: 25 October 2015