My first job was as an editorial assistant at a small publication called “The New Leader,” which no longer exists. It was founded by a Menshevik who left Russia after the revolution. Its politics were democratic socialist and anti-Communist. I was right out of college, just married, and had no job experience or skills. I was paid $10 a week. It was a great job. I did everything, from selling advertising to writing book reviews. I was introduced to the world of intellectuals who argued about politics all over the world and which writer’s latest novel was his best or worst. In an essay that I wrote for its last issue, I said that I earned my M.A. at the New Leader. (I have a B.A. and a Ph.D., no M.A.).

One of my greatest, most important lessons was about the nature of left-wing politics. The Mensheviks hated the Bolsheviks. But then there were the Trotskyites, the Lovestoneites, the Cannonites, and the Schachtmanites. And more. At the time, I learned the distinctions among them, but if asked today, I couldn’t tell you. Jay Lovestone, who led his faction, stopped in the office at least once. I went to an evening event where I met the great Max Schactman, a towering figure with piercing eyes who was said to have engaged in a legendary four-hour debate about the future of the left. (His wife, Yetta, was Al Shanker’s personal secretary during his UFT years in New York City.)

I also learned about the famous lunch tables at the City College of New York, each associated with a left-wing faction.

I didn’t know much about Marxist philosophy but the one abiding lesson I learned was that factionalism and divisiveness kept the left impotent. They spent more time fighting one another than framing an agenda about their common strategies and goals.

This is why I have always believed that our own movement to stop the privatization of public education and the degradation of their schooling into scripted learning must be inclusive. At the first annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Austin, I spoke of the importance of having a big tent, welcoming all to our side who share our vision of better schools for all, free of high-stakes testing, amply and equitably resourced, where teachers are treated with respect as the professionals they are, and students are treated with respect and have the opportunity to learn.

Thus, I will not join in the demonizing of allies. For example, I do not criticize the unions, first because I believe in the right to collective bargaining, and second because I believe that unions are vital in building and sustaining the middle class and reducing income inequality. Those of us who oppose privatization of the public sector are in the same boat. If we waste our time fighting one another, we won’t get anywhere and the boat might capsize.

This is my introduction to a touchy subject. Anthony Cody writes here about some recent internecine battles. I appreciate his support. Anthony and I have spent hours discussing the issues that confront us all. I continually learn from him, as I do from Carol Burris and from all the board members at the Network for Public Education, each of whom has deep experience in their own field.

I am always taken aback when someone I consider on the same side, fighting the corporate assault on our schools, attacks me. Then I remember what I learned at the New Leader about how people can destroy their movement by internal squabbling. I won’t do it. Send me your slings and arrows. I won’t react. I don’t care. We are up against some of the most powerful people in the nation, who want to impose their discredited ideas on other people’s children. I am saving my energy for that struggle. I want to see us win during my lifetime. The clock is ticking.