I do not think that I have seen Tom Nicholas’s videos recommended around here, so here is his latest piece which I found very entertaining and informative.
… posters, by Ridwan Adhami, Shephard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal, Ernesto Yerena, Delphine Diallo, Ayse Gursoz, and Arlene Mejorado.
They were commissioned by The Amplifier Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises the voices of grassroots movements through art and community engagement.
Today seems like a good day to wave hi to the U.S.A. and show off some of her best modern artists.
… political protest, billboard-style
Just in time for the American election, a billboard project is being held in New York City.In October, Art at a Time Like This Inc., in collaboration with SaveArtSpace, borrows the moniker “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” to present 20 artists on 20 billboards around New York City, providing “a platform for artists to comment on the current state of US politics and increasing polarization just in time for the election,” according to a press release.
The twenty artists have been chosen, and below is a small sample of what the installation will include.
The billboards will be placed around the 5 boroughs of New York, and there will be a digital map allowing viewers to plan self-guided tours. The full story is at Hyperallergic.
A lot is happening in Portland, and Big Media reports are often unreliable or outright false. Our very own Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has been on the ground risking her health and well-being to report the reality of the situation to us. This morning her report, Still a step away from Pinkerton’s, but it’s bad, is especially gut-wrenching, and it should be required reading. Please, if you haven’t already, head on over and share your support.
For some perspective on the reference to Pinkerton’s, Marcus at Stderr shares a historical look at labour protests in the U.S. with an essay titled How to Riot. It’s an in-depth look at the history of how the American government has handled civil unrest, and it’s frightening.
To round out your reading, I recommend Iris Vander Pluym at Death to Squirrels, whose essay A.G.Barr: Crip Dyke is a “violent rioter and anarchist” hijacking the Portland Protests, brings some insight into why what Crip Dyke is doing is so vitally important. The American government is lying to the public, and it is the on-sight reports from citizen journalists that tell the real story.
I share my thanks to all of these voices for the clarity they bring to a complicated issue.
Crip Dyke, please stay safe.
The state of British mainstream feminism has long been abysmal. All the major players seem to be massive transphobes, there’s court cases about people’s desire to abuse trans people and overall it has the feeling that they’re actually just in favour of them not being bothered by anything than a movement for women from all backgrounds and histories. And never was that White Feminist Approach demonstrated better than this week, when Owen Jones gently suggested that if you have a cleaner, you should pay them to stay at home, because the UK is only second to the US when it comes to Covid 19, with packed public transport posing a major risk for commuters. In case you don’t know who he is, Owen Jones is a British labour activist, a gay dude (this will be important later), a journalist, an antifascist and if that wasn’t bad enough, his major crime is being an ally to trans people. This turned into a furious row on Twitter with the who is who of White British Feminism* descending on him like it was judgement day with at least two published articles to follow.
Owen Jones: Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so: if someone can afford a cleaner, they should be paying them to stay at home and doing their own cleaning – they ‘ve certainly got the time to do it, otherwise they are a shockingly selfish human being.
Sarah Ditum: I don’t have more time in lockdown, I have less because I’m sharing my workspace with two teens and and another adult. There’s more dirt, because of the more people [sic]. the cleaning is killing me and this is a bad take.
Now, if Ditum had stopped after the first sentence she might have had a point: Corona parents are terribly stressed out because suddenly you’re a teacher for different age groups, have to cook all the meals the family would usually have at school/work and all of that while doing your job in home office. And there are good and valuable conversations about care work and the roll back on gender roles right now. Sarah isn’t part of them. Presumably exhaustion from cleaning. I don’t want to sound like supermummy, but I have two kids and a job as well and my husband is away during the week and so far cleaning hasn’t killed me. Mostly because I ignore it. It’s ok, I chose the flooring with having “how well does it hide dirt” in mind (very well).
Owen suggests that she might actually do something about the division of care work in her home:
Owen Jones: Get your teenagers to clean – we operated a rota system growing up to distribute daily household chores – and don’t force mostly low paid women to risk their health or even lives because that’s extremely selfish behaviour?
Sarah Ditum: Get my teenagers to clean? Declaring something simple doesn’t make it so
Remember, this is somebody who regularly claims that parents are making their children trans because, well, who knows. And hey, I kind of agree, making my teen do her chores certainly doesn’t have a fun tax added, but I’m in the business of raising competent adults who can look after themselves so yes, she still has to empty the dishwasher. We have a sort of clock with their pics on it. Occasionally my husband threatens to take the laundry that hasn’t been put away back to his place and he only washes whatever is in the hamper. But not Sarah Ditum’s poor children (what happened to the husband?)! I think I met a couple of Sarahs in parent teacher talks.
Me: Your son doesn’t do his tasks, only does what he wants and gets very angry when he’s reprimanded.
Mother: He’s never like this at home!
Me: What chores does he have to do at home?
Mother: Chores? My son doesn’t have to do any chores!
If that wasn’t bad enough, her pal Janice Turner chimes in:
Owen Jones: I have a twin sister and two elder brothers: we were all expected to do housework from the age of 11, using a daily rota system dividing up chores. I don’t understand why teenagers cannot be expected to do this?
Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? It’s not like those “we used to hop 15 miles through the snow on one foot” pieces of commentary, just a simple memory from a not too long ago childhood. You’re a family, you stick together, you live together, you take responsibility. Apparently for Janice Turner, mother to two teenage sons and supposedly married to a full grown ass man suggesting that your teens do chores is misogyny:
Janice Turner: Free online parenting and household management classes from a childless mansplainer. Mothers thank you for your service, Owen.
Now, apart from the homophobic dog whistle about a “childless man”, mothers are invoked. Welcome to the cult of true motherhood, as evidenced in the next tweet.
Janice Turner: Be great if Owen addressed the reason most families have cleaners. Not lazy bitches “with time on their hands” or crap mothers who won’t draw up rotas for teenage kids. But men. Men don’t do their share. Instead of hating on women tell the dude to pick up a fucking mop.
You mean like Mr. Ditum and Mr. Turner? Because both women are married to afaict able bodied men who are perfectly capable of picking up a fucking mop, as are their teenagers, three of them being of the male persuasion. When are they supposed to learn how to pick up a mop? But as I said, that’s work. Getting a teenager to do something is no task for the lilly-livered, I can tell you, nor is it to have those complicated conversations about the division of housework with your male partner. Turner’s solution: Make another woman come in and do it. That’s how your teenage sons learn responsibility and equality. Because according to her, most families have cleaners. Probably even her cleaner. While she is cleaning other people’s houses, somebody else is cleaning hers. Actually it’s just a big fucking pyramid scheme where we pass around the same 100 bucks to pay each other to clean our houses. This goes well past “middle class privilege” and takes it well into “colonial times erasure of all women who are not part of the ruling class” territory. It reminds me of the heroines of Jane Austen novels (I love Jane Austen novels): they struggle with financial hardship and consider themselves poor because they can only employ two or three servants.
Caroline Criado Perez, another UK feminist (her dad was the CEO of Safeway, if you need to guess her economic background), teetering on the brink of an epiphany:
Right, where’s the Mr Ditum, Mr Ditum junior, Mr Turner, Mr Turner junior and Mr Turner junior shaped gap in the analysis?
You’d think it couldn’t get any worse, would you? I’m sorry…
Again, Owen Jones agrees: men should pick up the tab instead of making other women risk their lives. Reasonable, or????
Owen Jones: Men should be shamed into doing their fair share of housework: couldn’t agree more.
But forcing largely low paid women, who also have to juggle their low paid work with unpaid household labour – to risk the health and lives of themselves and their families is disgraceful.
Janice Turner: No one is “forcing” them. People are making arrangementsso their cleaners are safe, providing gloves, anti-bac and staying out of the house whilst they are there. Believe it or not[,] many people, even cleaners, actually want to return to work. It makes them feel useful and normal.
I’m sorry if your jaw is hurting from the impact with the floor, but I did kinda warn you. Remember these people are also huge SWERFS (Sex Work Excluding (Radical) Feminists) who claim that all sex workers are forced into sex work and in need of rescue. When it’s their carpets, suddenly economic force is no longer a thing. Also, Janice, antibacterial shit isn’t any good when talking about a virus. But that’s just the running up to the “Arbeit macht frei” finale at the end of the tweet. Didn’t you know, people who employ cleaners aren’t exploiting usually racialised labour. No, they’re actually doing those women a favour because what sense of worth would they have without the approval of a white woman who keeps mispronouncing their name?
Also, you’re not staying out of the house for the benefit of the cleaner, you’re doing it because that person just had to commute to your place which potentially exposed them to Covid 19.
But we’re still missing some players. Here I present Julie Bindel with an especially interesting take:
Julie Bindel: I can only assume that abny male socialist giving instructions to women about the ethics of having a cleaner chooses not to consume pornography. After all, the women abused in the porn trade have their exploited ‘labour’ to the most extreme degree. [sic]
Julie Bindel is a political lesbian, aka somebody who is not actually that much into women but just not into men, who claims that bisexuality is a fake hobby for straight women, and who is here accusing a gay man of exploiting women in the production of porn he may or may not watch. It can’t get any more bizarre than this. Maybe it’s her own apparently confused ideas about sexual orientation that are showing. Does she think that gay men are actually political homosexuals because while they actually fancy women they just don’t want to have any kind of relationship with them because they’re secretly all MGTOW misogynists?
I’ve taken you on quite ride, and it should have a worthy finale, so here it is:
Sarah Ditum: Yep that would be a good way to deal with this, if I had a cleaner. But I don’t, I’m just knackered and deeply irritated by Owen’s presumption that everyone has a bunch of free time at the moment
Plot twist: Sarah Ditum doesn’t have a cleaner, but she is willing to lay down the lives of other people’s cleaners for your right to a clean kitchen. But she has since gone on (presumably well paid) record stating that she will get one as soon as she can, because she really doesn’t want to negotiate housework with her household, who are simultaneously grown ass adults and teenagers and who still leave peanutbutter smudges on door handles like toddlers. But instead of calling that piggy back, she’d rather yell at some other woman to clean up that mess.
*There are decent British feminists worth that name, somehow they don’t seem to get that many columns and newspaper slots…
** The author of this text has written it while repeatedly helping her kid with her homework, doing a WhatsApp English class and making the kid empty the dishwasher. Don’t you fucking dare to accuse me of not knowing how busy these times are.
Thanks to the wisdom of YouTube algorithm, I found out about the show Brooklyn 99 recently, and I have been watching it a lot. As far as LGBTQ representation in media goes, this is the best I have ever seen and I highly recommend it as the ultimate “woke” show. It shows that it is possble to make humor involving LGBTQ people without them being the butt of the jokes.
Open thread, talk whatever you want, just don’t be an a-hole.
As you may have heard already, trans folks got an early Christmas present in the UK: A transphobic woman lost her employment trial, establishing a trans friendly case law and also paying for the privilege of doing so.
In the wake of it J.K. Rowling dropped all pretence of not being a transphobe and the transphobic “persecution” cries are doing a round again. At the centre of their argument is that People who were AMAB pose a threat to women and girls in female only spaces*. They, including the very nice lady who didn’t get her contract renewed (she wasn’t even sacked as people would want to make you believe) believe that this is true regardless of what steps the person has done to transition** , which is part of why the judge ruled against the transphobe as the view was absolutist and “[t]hat belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
This doesn’t keep transphobes from keeping claiming that trans women are a threat to cis women in changing rooms and I think that one reason why they’re particularly successful in Britain is because of their unusual layout of changing rooms. Whether in France, Spain or Germany, wherever you go shopping, the fitting rooms are unisex. Single stalls with a door or a curtain. It wouldn’t be hard to sneak a peak, and occasionally you can’t help seeing something when there’s a curtain that doesn’t close perfectly and a mirror, but you’re supposed to handle it like a grown up. Going to fitting room the first time in the UK was a culture shock there were separate ones for men and women and the women’s was a large open room with a couple of individual stalls that you could use if you tried on swimwear or something. Everybody else stripped and dressed together much like a gym locker. I guess you can see why that would be the image that flashes before UK people’s eyes when they hear “unisex” toilets or fitting rooms. Our communal swimming pool has always had “unisex” changing rooms: individual stalls that you enter on the “street side” of the pool and leave at the pool side. There’s also “family changing rooms”. No fucking body is forced to share space with somebody else while naked (unless you go to the sauna, but then that’s what you pay extra for).
Of course transphobes are not ignorant. The vocal ones are well educated and have for sure travelled to the continent and further away. They know what unisex toilets and changing rooms look like, but they choose not to correct their audience. Much like all other reactionaries who know better but who selectively present “facts” to mislead people who are probably well intentioned but just not as well read or travelled.
*Apparently boys are safe in male only spaces. For reasons. Or they don’t count. I don’t know.
**Now, just to make it clear: All trans women are women. I don’t care about the state of your junk or whether you stuff your bras with tissues or tits. None of them are my business. Unless you’re using live tits. That’s animal cruelty.
A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.
First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.
Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock
Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit
Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016
In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.
An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.
The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.
Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)
So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up. When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.
People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water, it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.
We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.
Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.
SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.
This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The #StandingRock Sioux Tribe proves once again why they're one of the most resilient, powerful, and innovative communities. They didn’t let the Dakota Access Pipeline defeat them. Instead, they turned their anger into action 🔆♻️ pic.twitter.com/8rjYFLTKfS
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 5, 2019
March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter.
A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.
There are events worldwide to celebrate the day and I encourage you to check the site International Women’s Day to see what’s happening in your area. They have a search feature by country and city so plug-in and see what’s up. The site also has a wealth of resources and they’re hosting an international photo competition.
The world is still a dangerous place for women and there is much work to be done before that will change. International Women’s Day is a chance for us all to stand up and say we want a better world; a world where women are paid on parity with men, where access to birth control and abortion services are freely available, where rape is regarded as violent assault and no woman ever is accused of “asking for it.” Every woman I know has a story of inequality or harassment or worse. Let’s change that so that the stories of the next generation reflect a world where people are judged by the content of their character, not the content of their underpants.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
In the Czechoslovak Socialist republic everyone had a right to work. That is, everyone was entitled to be employed and make wages that guaranteed you shall be able to live off of them.
That sounds good on paper, but it did not work out so well in praxis.
First problem was that whilst there was some possibility of improving your income through work if you were a good worker and happened to be paid not per hour but per manufactured piece (or mined tonnage etc.), this was very strongly discouraged. The norms were still being evaluated and re-evaluated so if people worked too hard and earned too much, they would be re-adjusted so their income falls. This has led to peer pressure against too “hardworking” people to keep their heads down and not exceed the norms too much. Some minimal income was guaranteed, wo why work too much? If you do, you will have to keep working hard but you will not get more, so why bother? That was the general consensus among the populace. Nobody feared unemployment or not making enough money, and everyone knew that their chances at making more are abysmal, so people generally skived off of work left right and center. In trying not to get anyone too rich, the regime only succeeded to keep everyone poor (with exceptions, on that later).
Since It was not possible to keep an eye on everyone everywhere, the supervisors often did not even try. Greater care was taken to make the numbers look good on paper than to do good work, since it was easier. There were of course companies and individuals that did a good job. Some such companies were kept as the forefront for the regime and occasionally some random worker who exceeded the plan was paraded around as a PR stunt. I saw a discussion with one such worker on TV towards the end of the regime where the reality of this state of affairs was mentioned – that a lot of produced pieces was junk that once written into the glowing reports went not to the shops, but on the scrap pile. This was huge problem that has caused a lot of economical damage to the regime and has led to significant waste of resources.
Another problem was that it actively discouraged improvement and development. In the town where I live there was a small factory that has manufactured computer monitors. Our class was one day on an excursion in there and one moment stuck in mind. It was when the foreman was showing us a piece of new equipment, an automatic soldering table that was capable of soldering all components on a circuit board in one go in a bath of molten tin. He said “but we cannot use it too much, because otherwise we would not have work for all the women in soldering department”. To which our teacher, a bit zealous communist, replied with a sneer “but some capitalist would lave to have it so they could lay off those women”. The foreman looked baffled and not to pleased with this comment, but did not reply. As a child I could not put my finger on exactly where the problem lies with this reasoning, but it felt wrong. We were taught that advances in technology are a good thing, and making work for people easier is a good thing, but here people had to do manually work in an environment full of poisonous fumes even though the work could be done by a machine? It did not feel right. Well we need to keep those buggy whips manufacturers employed…
From that stems the fourth problem. A lot of work done was “work for work’s sake”. Not only was employment guaranteed, but unemployment was illegal. In order to achieve the nearly 100% employment, even with a lot of people skiving off and not working their best as a rule, there was an awful lot of busy but ultimately pointless jobs around. I remember how my brother finished his machinist’s education and went all giddy to his first job. He was actually looking forward to it. He came home all downcast and disappointed after his first day – he was given a stack of notebooks, a pencil and a ruler and he had to draw lines in the notebooks. Completely pointless task, but the factory – coincidentally the same one as in previous example – just did not have anything better for him to do.
Fourth problem was the widespread corruption. Most jobs that required higher education (like a physician, or a teacher) were assigned centrally so that availability of some services is evenly distributed. Not a completely bad idea since distributing these works purely on market basis means that countryside is without schools and doctors. However the implementation was deeply problematic, since party membership and family histories were a part of the consideration for who gets assigned where. So the countryside was sometimes stuck with teachers or doctors who were sent there as a form of punishment for not being subservient to the regime enough – and that was better option than those being sent there for mediocrity or incompetence. And the good spots were reserved for the competent – and, more importantly, the well-connected.
All in all this has led to the regime not progressing economically too much and average people were not particularly well-off. It tried to hide this behind the iron curtain, but some people did manage to visit western countries and word of mouth spread their experiences. And when the iron curtain fell, we could go and see for our selves the reality.
A few weeks ago I had a visitor at my lab from our other plant in Germany. We did not have too much work to do at that time so after i have shown him around we had some time to chat about this and that.
One of the things that transpired was that he is married to a woman who is of US American / German descend. He said her Texan grandfather took it rather badly and commented it along the lines “I was fighting against Nazis in war, and my daughter and granddaughter both married one.”.
I looked at him after this and asked the first question that popped in my mind: “Is your grandfather in law per chance a Republican and did he vote for Trump?” To which his answer was yes on both accounts.
I was astounded at this blatant display of a lack of self-awareness.
I mean, it is not uncommon to hear something similar in CZ. Even some of my close friends sometimes ask me – and only half-jokingly – if I still work “for Nazis” or in “Naziland”. Even I said such things. The German nation will in minds of many Czechs never ever get rid of the black stain the horrors of the WW2 have made on its reputation, not to mention previous thousands of years of mutual enmity between Slavic and Germanic nations and the two hundreds years long attempts at Germanization of Czechs. History cannot be denied or ignored, and its consequences do and will reach far into the future.
There is still also a lot of anti-slavic prejudice (not only) in Germany to this day. When Czech Republic entered in the EU, there was a lot of people near the borders who feared the influx of uncouth Czechs that would lead to a massive rise in crime-rate and stealing of jobs from proper Germans. Which of course did not happen.
It is therefore understandable that some Czechs view Germans as a whole with distrust and dislike, even though not justifying the over broad use of the term “Nazi” for anyone from Germany.
The current rise in nationalism spurred by anti-muslim sentiments, both in EU and in USA, seems to have led to a peculiar situation demonstrated by the Texan grandfather in law of my colleague’s. A lot of people seem to be putting an unqualified equal sign between the words “Nazi” (or “fascist”) and “German” in their minds whilst completely forgetting – or perhaps never even knowing – what this originally was about. And so subsequently they are voting for de-facto Nazis, who spout nazi rhetoric and try to propagate nazi policies, the whole package – unbridled racism and white supremacy, yearning for a golden age that never was, scapegoating and dehumanizing whole ethnic groups, wishing for concentration camps, firing squads and wars to beat opponents into submission (even the “traditional family values” and homophobia are in that package). All the while saying that “Nazis are bad” and thinking themselves opposing Nazis and nazism.
Yes, I know, one could quibble about whether the term Nazi really does fit Trump and the Republican party. One could discuss the minutiae endlessly and talk over differences in definitions and perspectives. There are differences. However I would argue that the term does indeed fit Republicans in general and Trump in particular much, much better than it does a typical German in these days, who most likely would feel ashamed and sorry for what Nazis have done and would despise them.
Lets not forget that not all (not even most) Germans are Nazis and not all Nazis are German. Lets not forget that first victims of first Nazis were Germans – German Jews, German communists, German mentally ill and handicapped and many just ordinary decent Germans. Using the term Nazi as a generic sneer against Germans is morphing into a form of bigotry of its own, an a dangerous one at that. Because as it usually is with such things, it shifts the focus from bad things people do on people who are perceived as bad whatever they do*.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
I was born towards the end of summer, which effectively means I was almost a year younger than many of other kids who were supposed to go to school that year. This has led to concerns whether I will be mentally mature enough to cope so I was brought in for preliminary evaluation in the spring prior to my first school year. I do not remember almost anything of it, only that it was a pleasant conversation with some old lady whom I did not know.
After I was deemed eligible, the education started. It was pretty normal as an education anywhere else at that time. Children sitting in rows in cheap, uncomfortable chairs behind small tables. Teacher standing in front of the class talking. Don’t talk unless asked, raise your hand if you want to say something or ask.
The regime had somewhat ambiguous attitude to education. On one hand it has recognized that knowledge is empowering and completely ignorant and uneducated populace is useless. Therefore eight years of elementary school were compulsory and the regime took pride in nearly universal literacy and numeracy.
On the other hand it has also recognized that educated and well-informed people are harder to control because they have that unpredictable tendency to be critical of the information presented to them and reach their own conclusion. which has proven correct, since the velvet revolution was initiated by massive student protests.
So the higher education was theoretically available to anyone who was capable, but there were caveats that had nothing to do with capability and everything to do with how much one was perceived to be a threat.
Ever since childhood I was recognized as a university material. I was top of the class and despite year-long health problems that impeded me significantly for a few years I did not need to repeat classes. My father was a member of the communist party and of Peoples Militia, and he was working class. This was considered a good thing in my yearly evaluations and was always mentioned together with my good notes. However one of my uncles was a political dissident who has emigrated to USA and was in the employ of US government. This was considered a bad thing although I was never told this and I only learned about this later on. Further, by a twist of destiny, my father, the communist, was the only one from the family who remained on good terms with his dissident brother. So there was always a big question mark about my future education and whether I will be allowed to pursue either my love of science or my passion for painting.
The regime seems to have had some sort of poorly thought out and poorly formulated concept of hereditary sin. Children and even grandchildren of aristocrats or bourgeois or anyone really even remotely related to dissidents were treated as a threat and were put under close scrutiny. As I grew older I learned about this and I have tried to understand it but I never did. It did not make any logical sense to deny someone higher education just because their grandfather was a bourgeois factory owner. They are not factory owner, they live in this wonderful socialist country where everyone is equal just like everyone else. They did not do anything wrong, their grandfather did. Where is the logic in this?
That way I learned there is another iron curtain in addition to the corporeal one in the forests. An invisible social barrier creating a tangled maze nearly impossible to navigate, because the rules were never clear and were subject to the whims of the powers that be. There was only one sure way to higher education, and that was being a relative of a high party affiliate. Everyone else could be denied for reasons they will never fully learn.
Luckily for me when I was a the end of elementary school, the regime fell and the Iron Curtain was torn down. And with it fell the artificial barriers that might prevent me from getting adequate education. There were other barriers still and new ones emerged, but that is a different story.