Saturday, September 04, 2004

Why Join the Million Worker March?

Why join the Million Worker March, defying a legion of naysayers?

To be sure, the Million Worker March will not be as big as the August 29, 2004 "World-Says-No-to-the-Bush-Agenda" march organized by United for Peace and Justice, much less the worldwide mobilization against the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. However, the social composition of main organizers and likely participants of the Million Worker March -- in terms of class, race, and political consciousness -- is far more critical to the future of independent political action on the electoral and social movement fronts in the United States than either of the above.

As a matter of fact, if national anti-war coalitions had not adopted the AnybodyButBush strategy of concentrating overwhelmingly on organizing against the Republican National Convention and instead responded to the call of the Million Worker March organizers -- "We call upon United for Peace and Justice, Not in Our Name, leaders and all organizations preparing to demonstrate at the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention to make these great demonstrations a build up to a vast convergence in Washington, D.C. on October 17, 200" (emphasis added, "An Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement") -- we all would have been much better off. Contrary to the hope of the "World-Says-No-to-the-Bush-Agenda" march organizers and participants, George W. Bush shot up in polls afterward; and the march's inability to challenge the pro-war agenda of John Kerry, lest Bush gets "re-elected," made it another big landmark of demobilization and depoliticization of anti-war activists, most of whom had given the protests against the Democratic National Convention "a pass":
Even in the unified ranks of the Boston antiwar group United for Justice With Peace, fault lines began to form recently when activists started discussing whether to protest at the Democratic National Convention next week.

"Some people feel very strongly that we should have anybody but [President] Bush. They don't want to somehow play into the Republicans' hands," said Cynthia Peters, a coalition organizer.

The group decided to hold "People's Parties" instead, timed with Democratic Party events for convention delegates. Peters even encouraged national activists not to come to Boston, but instead hold People's Parties in their hometowns. Peters has mixed feelings about the approach, which is aimed at bolstering the chances of presumptive Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry.

"The 'anybody but Bush' movement makes people think that if Kerry wins we can all go home," Peters said. "But under Clinton we saw the dismantling of welfare benefits. We saw sanctions against Iraq and the bombing of Baghdad. I am under no illusions that Kerry is going to radically diverge."

Another left-wing group, United for Peace and Justice, decided differently; it will protest, and it's coordinating an antiwar event near the convention Thursday, the day Kerry speaks. "There's a lot of 'anybody but Bush' pressure," said Bill Dobbs, the media coordinator of the New York-based group. "Lots of people who feel very strongly about getting rid of Bush. They want to give the Democrats a pass. We do not want to give the Democrats a pass. We think it's important to keep the pressure on both parties."

. . . Activists, now members of well-organized antiwar movements, are debating — in living room meetings and e-mail exchanges, in the alternative press and on the Internet — whether to protest in Boston.

As a headline in the liberal magazine the Nation put it: "Progressive activists at the Democratic convention are faced with the question of whether to protest or just talk about their issues."

For some activists, at least, "the slogan 'The Evil of Two Lessers' has been replaced by 'Anybody but Bush,'" the Nation article said. "That leaves progressives with a question: whether to demonstrate at the Democratic National Convention in Boston July 26-29 or give the Dems a pass and concentrate on the Republican National Convention in New York August 30-September 1." (Anne-Marie O'Connor, "Activists Ponder DNC Strategy," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2004)
The anti-war movement's loss of political independence and acquiescence to the hegemony of the Democratic Party is a political error of historic proportions, and we have to do all we can to recover from it as soon as possible. The Million Worker March is an important step in our recovery.

The Million Worker March can become much more than that, though, if the march organizers succeed in developing the network of organizers and activists -- many of them rooted in the labor left and Black communities -- that they have created in the process of mobilizing for the march and begin to lead local, regional, and national actions that fight against the wars abroad and at home at the same time. In that event, we can even look at the demise of the predominantly white anti-war movement as a blessing in disguise which created room for the emergence of a new social movement led by organic intellectuals of the Black working class.

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