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MWM: A First Gathering of Militants for Labor and Peace

As a first gathering of the Million Worker March in DC, numbers fell short, but enthusiasm on earth crackled with determination
The sun shined brightly amidst trees with leaves of red at the Lincoln Center in Washington DC for the Million Worker March, Sunday Oct. 17. I first heard it was forthcoming during the Boston DNC protests. It was conceived earlier this year by co-chair Trent Willis of the ILW whose local endorsed it unanimously. They said it couldn't be done! But it happened!

Tabling was rampant featuring bumperstickers, flyers, buttons, and handmade jewelry. Groups for labor and anti-war were numerous and I was in a feverish pitch to be with my people! The MWM was an all-day rally. Some speakers were Dick Gregory, Danny Glover and a real dynamo, Brenda Stokely, who spoke of "blood, sweat, and tears" to pull together. We must not take the plans and trash them when we return. We must work in the communities to take back our voice because neither of the 2 parties will do it for us.

The AFL-CIO contributed nothing for the event. They give all labor's money to the Democrat Party.

Some buses were stopped by the DC police and were not allowed in. It was unclear how many, although some were let through, but not all of them. Court orders were obtained to release them. Therefore, there were people coming to the MWM who did not make it. Also, one woman got arrested for carrying a sign through the Vietnam Wall Memorial. The Nat'l Lawyers' Guild assisted her, and she intends to fight it for first ammendment rights.

Dick Gregory said, "Fear and God don't occupy the same space." A Workers' Party spokeman said alternatives to the war are "prison, military or McDonald's." Last year 5,000 people died on the job. Glover said "True democrats believe in democracy. We have older bodies, but our minds are young. We stand here in a movement to insure justice. They say the economy is growing, but paychecks are stuck in mid'evil' times."

A Haitian woman, prominent for her work, risked her life to travel to DC. She spoke against the puppet president the U.S. installed and said the U.S. Army is killing their people every day since the takeover, February 29, '04. Other voices were from Mumia Abu Jamal on death row (a tape), labor organizers from Japan, and representatives of the Int'l Writers' Movement who talked on the myth of the free press. Journalists are "muzzled." More journalists have been killed in the Iraq War than all the U.S. wars combined. They are "dying to tell the story."

Working people descended upon the capital and spirits soared for a day. There is much work to do, fighting privitization, shipping of our jobs overseas, and receiving p-nuts for pay. We must not sit on our "duffs" until the next MWM.

Thanks! 18.Oct.2004 17:49

Pete Anderson pete.a@comcast.net

Thanks Genny!! You are always there on the cutting edge for all of us!

If people by now don't see that the democratic and republican parties are there for big business and the wealthy primarily something is wrong with them. Sure they will dribble crumbs to us and keep us sedated. Well they have shown us their true nature and it's time to dump the republican and democratic parties.

Every person who cares about Working Class and other people who are materially poor should withdraw from the above mentioned parties ASAP.

All of my political party work hence forth will be generated through the Socialist Workers, Socialist and/or Communist Party.

Even the Green party is a party of the capitalist genre.

Welcome Home!! (*:


Thanks for this candid report Ginny! 18.Oct.2004 18:01

Thomas W. Warner warner@scn.org

Thanks for this candid report Ginny! Glad that you could go. Together we will bring Washington State around.

http://www.seattlecuba.org/
206 523-1720
8923 2nd Ave NE

Ashamed of My Union... 19.Oct.2004 12:32

alsis38 alsis35@yahoo.com

...for not sponsoring this event. Had I known of it sooner than a couple of weeks ago, I would've tried to join you. Sorry, but Thanks for the report. Next time, I want to be there with you. :)

--AFSCME Local 88 member since 1999.

Another Perspective on the MWM 19.Oct.2004 15:38

Repost

MARCH TO IRRELEVANCE...the Million Worker March and the decline of the left in
the American labor movement

By Gregory A. Butler, local 608 carpenter

The "Million Worker March" [MWM] came in about 990,000 short on Sunday, October
17th....

The event, which cribbed it's name from Minister Louis Farrakhan's Black
nationalist Washington DC rally 10 years ago (which actually live up to it's
name, attendance-wise), had been billed by many left wing labor activists as a
great turning point for militant US unionists...kinda like a latter-day Flint
Sit Down Strike crossed with the Selma to Montgomery march....

However, it didn't work out like that....

According to news accounts by the Washington Post, Washington Times and ABC
News, only 10,000 people showed up at the rally....far less than the organizers
had expected..

Nobody, not even the MWM organizers, actually expected a Farrakhan-scale
event...but, the MWM's Communications Chair, Kennedy Assassination conspiracy
theorist Ralph Schoenman, had predicted in the Washington Times on Friday,
October 15 that the rally at the Lincoln Memorial would have at least 100,000
people in attendance....

That didn't happen....

Instead, only a handfull of folks bothered to turn out....and the organizers are
already playing the blame game, claiming, bizarrely, that the DC police caused
the low turnout, because a handfull of busses were not allowed to unload their
passengers at the Lincoln Memorial, and instead had to let the folks off at RFK
Stadium, which is just a few subway stops away from the Memorial on the
Washington Metro....

Of course, those bus reroutings delayed, at most, about 1,000 people...WHO WERE
ALREADY IN DC FOR THE RALLY...

The far more important question is, why did so many workers not attend this
rally????

On the face of it, a REAL mass movement, aimed at mobilizing the working class,
should have attracted far more than 1 million workers....

There are many abuses faced by the working class in America today....

Millions of workers have seen their jobs "downsized" - that is, they were laid
off and either replaced by a machine, or their remaining co-workers have to work
longer and harder for the same pay, or the job was "outsourced" to a lower
paying subcontractor, or their job went to Mexico or India...

Millions of workers have lost their pensions, and are being forced to pay
through the nose for insurance coverage that was once paid for by their
employers...

Millions of Black and Latino workers are being stripped of affirmative action
protections, with employers going back to the Jim Crow days of racist job
discrimination....

Millions of low income workers have been kicked off welfare, or have lost their
Section 8 housing assistance, plunging them even deeper into poverty...

Millions of Latino illegal immigrant workers are forced to work for substandard
pay, subject to rampant abuses and discrimination...and can be deported at a
moment's notice...

Millions of workers are denied their right to union representation, and 20,000
workers a year get fired and blacklisted if they try to organize their
co-workers...

Millions of H-1B and H-2A immigrant "guest workers" are held in a form of modern
day indentured servitude...they are bonded to a particular employer, who can cut
their pay, reduce their benefits, and even sexually harass and assault them
without penalty...but, if they dare to complain, or if they displease their
employer in any way, they can instantly be deported to their homeland..

Millions of women workers are subject to sexual harassment and pregnancy
discrimination on the job..and also have to pay out of pocket for often sub-par
child care services..and their health insurance coverage frequently refuses to
cover abortion and birth control....and, they're paid less than male workers
with less experience and education....

Millions of union members have union leaders who are more interested in "class
peace" with Corporate America than they are in fighting for workers rights..and
they retreat and surrender to the bosses at every turn, and preside over a
declining union movement that today barely represents 10% of the US private
sector labor force....

And, if that wasn't bad enough, the nation is locked up in three interolocking
Middle Eastern imperialistic oil wars, in Afghanistan, Iraq and against the
shadowy Saudi Arabian terrorist group < al-Qaeda > ...these wars have led to the
lost of over 1,200 young American soldiers lives, and have put somewhere in the
neighborhood of 12,000+ soldiers in the hospital...(not to mention the 17,000+
Iraqis, and 10,000+ Afghans, who've perished, and the tens of thousand of Iraqis
and Afghans who've been maimed)...

Any one of these issues, on their own, would be legitimate cause for intense
rage among the workers of America....and we're facing all of them at once....as
well as the everyday abuses that the capitalistic system carries out against the
working class...

Why didn't the Million Worker March tap into that class rage???

Very simple...the actual purpose of the Million Worker March was to convince
militant union workers, in particular militant Black workers, to "vote against
Bush" on Election Day...that is, to vote FOR John Kerry..

Basically, the Million Worker March was nothing more than a Get Out The Vote
[GOTV] event for the Democratic Party..and MWM keynote speaker Martin Luther
King III's speech made that VERY clear, when he called for workers to set up
telephone trees to call 20 people and get them to vote "against Bush" (that is,
FOR KERRY) and for them to get each one of those 20 people to call 20 people to
vote "against Bush" and so on and so on and so on....basically, King called for
setting up telephone trees for the Democratic Party..

King's sentiment was echoed by another major speaker at the rally, comedian and
1960's activist Dick Gregory..

And, long before the march happened, the MWM's two top leaders, Teamsters local
808 President F. Christopher "Chris" Silvera and International Longshore and
Warehouse Union local 10 BA Clarence Thomas had stated that this event was
intended as a GOTV event for the Democrats (Silvera even went so far as to write
a letter to the AFL-CIO top leadership, urging them to support the MWM because
it was the most "cost effective" Democratic Party GOTV event that the unions
could possibly set up)

Now, if the rally had been HONEST about it's intent as a Democratic Party
campaign event, that would have been one thing....but, the MWM has been wrapped
up in all sorts of leftist rhetoric about political independence for the working
class and "Marching in our own name"....

The reason for this deception is simple...if the event was openly billed as a
Democratic Party GOTV event, many of the leftist activists and militant
unionists the rally organizers wanted to woo would not attend...the radicals
would only come if the MWM pretended to be for political indepencence.....

Of course, that kind of dishonesty and hypocracy alienates regular workers...who
might have come to the rally in larger numbers if the MWM leaders had possessed
the intestinal fortitude to OPENLY support the Kerry-Edwards campaign...or at
least to be openly for "Anybody But Bush"....

Beyond that, the MWM's literature stood out for it's lack of anger and militancy
for the abuses that workers have suffered in this country...the MWM's leaflets
read like labor-oriented Democratic Party literature...they dealt with the
problems of our class in a mild and liberal way...and posed no real
solutions...and totally left out the only way we can achieve our demands, that
is...class struggle...

Considering the fact that almost all of the rally's leaders are African
American, the MWM's literature was dead silent on the demands of Black workers
in this country...it had nothing to say on affirmative action, welfare reform,
racial profiling and the mass incarceration of 1 million Black Americans, all
burning issues for African American workers...

Perhaps the rally organizers were pandering to the liberal racism of many White
activists, who basically don't care about the horrible persecution that Black
Americans suffer every day in this country...and many of whom are basically
uncomfortable around Black people...

In the end, the bulk of the 10,000 folks who attended the rally were from the
American far left...with very very few ordinary non-leftist workers showing
up....

This isn't that surprising...due to the fact that, since the 1940's, almost all
of the various socialist, communist and anarchist groups in America have
relentlessly isolated themselves from the American working class, preferring to
build their social base of support among upscale college students and
professionals...

In particular, for the past 60 years, almost all of the left in the USA have
avoided the most militant of American workers, that is, Black workers, like the
plague....

There are some exceptions, of course...during the 1960's, the Black Panther
Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Progressive Labor Party
built militant (and often armed) revolutionary unionist organizations among
Black workers in the automobile industry, the post office, the health care
industry and the construction trades....

But today, the left is almost absent from the working class...and further, the
left is de facto racially segregated..and, even among the Black left, with few
exceptions, they're almost absent from the working class, and are mainly
concentrated among upscale African American college students and professionals..

By and large, the American left are oriented towards the middle class...and are
mainly interested in preserving the declining priviliges and incomes of that
social class by reforming the capitalist system....

Due to that middle class orientation, the left in this country have no interest
in the problems of the working class for the crudely simple reason that,
ultimately, the only way the working class' problems can be solved is by
ABOLISHING the capitalistic system, and replacing it with a communistic system
where workers control the society, the economy and the government....and all
social priviliges are abolished...

The middle class orientation of the American far left is clearly reflected in
the kind of tactics of struggle they embrace - specifically, peaceful rallies on
non working days, that involve picketing empty buildings,and listening to
speeches from reform capitalist-oriented leaders in city parks....tactics which,
at the end of the day are about begging the rulers to change by peacefully
petitioning them...

These tactics quite clearly DO NOT WORK...as the mass rallies before the
invasion of Iraq showed quite clearly....millions of folks marched, and begged
the corporate rulers of America and England to not invade Iraq...but the rulers
launched the invasions anyway....

Beyond that, these tactics are clearly unsuited for the working class, for they
do not put our social power on display....

What I mean is...the power of the working class comes from the fact that we do
all of the productive labor of the society....without our labor, no goods get
produced or transported and no services get provided....

In other words...WE DON'T OWN THE COUNTRY, BUT WE SURE AS HELL RUN IT....

And, if we withdraw our labor, everything comes to a screeching halt....

Remember, the greatest victories the American working class ever won came from
strikes...and in particular strikes coupled with insurrections and riots in the
streets...

The times in American history when workers have advanced (1870's, 1880's, during
World War I, 1930's, during World War II, 1960's) were times when millions of
workers were on strike..and those strikes were often coupled with rioting in the
streets...

And this is doubly true for African American workers...our greatest victories
came from strikes in the 1930's, the threat of a nationwide general strike of
Black workers in 1941 (Black socialist railroad union leader A. Phillip
Randolph's "March On Washington Movement" of December 1941), and the 1960's
rioting by jobless Black workers and workplace occupations and wildcat strikes
by Black autoworkers and construction workers)...

As a class, we've never gained a God-damned thing from parading in front of
empty office buildings on a Sunday afternoon....those tactics are
irrelevant.....and don't even work for the middle class and the students...

Workers power comes from the fact that we are the creators of all wealth in
society...and, if we choose to, we can toss aside the rulers who ride atop us
and profit from our labor....

As the leftists listened to Democratic Party Get Out The Vote speeches in front
of empty Washington DC office buildings Sunday, there were workers locked in
REAL struggles....

Like the casino workers an hour and a half up I-95 from the rally site in
Atlantic City....

10,000 of them are on strike..as part of a move by their union, the awkwardly
named Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees - Hotel Employees
and Restaurant Employees (UNITE - HERE), to have the union contracts of Las
Vegas, Detroit and Atlantic City to expire at the same time 3 years from now...

This is part of a broader move by UNITE HERE to have hotel worker contracts in
San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City expire at the same time 2 years
from now....

Unfortunately, UNITE HERE's corporate unionist leaders (who are as racist and
sexist as they are pro corporate - the AC casino workforce is largely female and
mostly Black, Latino or South Asian Muslim - the union leaders are White males)
are terrified of the social power of their members, and have hobbled the
strikers from day one...bending to every court injunction (including the one
that barred strikers from using swear words on the picketline) and doing nothing
to stop guests from being bussed into the casinos by union drivers, and union
workers scabbing behind the picket line....

Those workers need the assistance of the entire labor movement, to help them
break from their sellout leaders, and to help them use their social power to
bring the hospitality corporations to their knees..

But, even with UNITE HERE's misleadership, these workers still have their social
power on display, and their rallies, backed up by that social power, easily
attract 10,000+ workers, in a small city with less than 200,000 workers...

Even unorganized workers deep in the belly of US imperialism's war machine have
the social power to fight (and, ultimately, overturn) this system...a fact
illustrated about 10,000 miles due East of the boardwalk of Atlantic City...

At Tallil Air Base, in Nasiryah, Iraq, 19 US Army reservists of the 343rd
Quartermaster Company, 13th Corps Support Command staged a mutiny....

They were assigned to what they characterized as a "suicide mission"...to drive
unarmored trucks full of helicopter fuel, with no mechanized infantry escort, to
an Army air base further north in the "Sunni Triangle" where they felt it was
almost certain that Iraqi insurgents would ambush them...

The soldiers, mostly working class Blacks from the South, refused the
order...and are now facing court martial on mutiny charges, and are being held
in detention, under conditions almost as abusive as those Iraqi detainees have
been subject too....

Be that as it may, those 19 enlisted people and non commissioned officers did
more to disrupt the war effort than any one of those anti-war protests last
spring....

Again proving the point...the social power of the working class,and our
potential strength, is best displayed by strikes and uprisings than by parading
past empty office buildings on a weekend...

The American left needs to understand this..and to reorient itself away from the
middle class and reforming the capitalist system,and towards the working class
and overturning capitalism, and replacing that social system with a
worker-controlled communistic one, where those who do the productive labor of
society will also rule...

One major step towards that social revolution would involve reorienting the
American trade unions away from business unionism (the ideology, dominant in
every union in this country today, that falsely claims that bosses and workers
have a common interest, and the purpose of unions and union leaders is to build
"class partnership" between workers and bosses) and to reorient those unions
towards something I call "revolutionary unionism"...

I've explained the ideology of revolutionary unionism on the GANGBOX website
before, at :

 http://www.geocities.com/gangbox/csu1.html

 http://www.geocities.com/gangbox/downbylaw.html

 http://www.geocities.com/gangbox/contract2001.html

and on the GANGBOX listserv, at:

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/22

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/954

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/2466

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/2659

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/4655

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/4738

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/5059

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/7966

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/8649

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/8770

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/9027

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/11281

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/11583

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/12328

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/12482

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/13389

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/14549

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/16200

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/16682

and

 http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangbox/message/18052

Revolutionary unions are oriented towards class struggle...and recongnize the
fundamental truth that capitalists and workers are enemies, that the very nature
of capitalist economics makes us enemies (that is, our wages are far less than
the economic value we create, and the bulk of the value we create goes into the
pockets of the capitalists who employ us) and that, until that day when our
class is strong enough to overthrow the capitalistic system, and establish a
worker-controlled communistic system, the job of unions is to fight the
capitalists and gain the highest wages, best benefits and best working
conditions we possibly can under this system...

And, of course, all of those gains can only be achieved by withdrawing our
labor, or otherwise disrupting the capitalistic system (riots, prisoner
uprisings, mutinies by enlisted personnnel in the armed forces ect)....

The cold hard reality is, parading in front of empty office buildings on a
Sunday afternoon, listening to speeches by leaders who belive in reforming
capitalism..and, above all VOTING FOR CAPITALIST POLITICIANS LIKE JOHN
KERRY...are NOT going to lead us to any of those gains...

In fact, they actually impede our class struggling against this system....

The sooner that the American left understands that reality, the sooner they
really will be able to mobilize millions of American workers....

Thats it for now.

Be union, work safe.

yeah, solidarity forever 19.Oct.2004 17:01

--

with whom? iww fucked their ties w/the portland community. As the saying goes, "With friends like these..."

reply to butler 21.Oct.2004 01:03

Tim timhall11(nospam)@yahoo.com

Here is a comment from a member of the Communist Voice Organization who attended the MWM:

"I wanted to also comment on the commentary from an activist on the MWM which XXX was good enough to post. (He refers to Gregory Butler's commentary above.) I thought some of the information on the appeals which the MWM organizers allegedly made to the AFL-CIO leadership was interesting if true. At the same time, I think the activist is wrong to term the event overall as nothing more than a pro-Kerry event. True, the organizers soft-pedaled the contradiction between union leaders supporting (in words) this event, while backing Kerry, and some of their broader appeals didn't deal with Kerry. And true some speakers were "getting out the vote" against Bush. But the organizers themselves at the rally and in articles on their web page had a lot of criticism of Kerry and the Democrats and did so at the rally. And they emphasized how great it was for workers to organize in defiance of the Democrats and the AFL-CIO national leaders. And such appeals, however limited, are not a mere hoax in my opinion, but represent disagreements with the mainstream union hacks and disgruntlement with Kerry and the DP. The fact that they have raised these issues, albeit from a reformist perspective, is important. It has helped open the door for a discussion of working class political independence though the organizers are afraid to walk through that door. Our job (as communists) is to kick that door open and offer the alternative of real class politics, not a revival of the old liberal-labor politics or hopes for assistance from the main AFL-CIO officials. By the way, while the activist was bemoaning the MWM for not organizing strike solidarity instead, I saw a report that a section of the demonstration headed over to show solidarity for striking workers in DC. I also thought it was wrong of the activist to contrast real actions of the workers with the MWM. The activists at the MWM would be the first to agree in supporting strikes, etc. and many of them are undoubtedly doing so in their local areas. But you would get the impression from this activist that there were great class battles being waged (and not just a few scattered strikes under AFL-CIO leadership) and the MWM was just diverting attention from this."

I would add that Butler's charge of racism against MWM is a bit strange considering that, according to attendees, the main actual groups of workers that came were mostly Black workers from New York unions.

huh? 21.Oct.2004 13:36

one who was there, too

I don't like breathless over the top writing like gk's. "They said it couldn't be done." WHAT couldn't be done, and WHO said that. "But it happened!" WHAT happened. I was there and saw NOTHING happen. Maybe I'm just angry about the time and money I spent, but NOTHING happened. Nothing that hasn't been done before and done better. Labeling it a "Million Worker March" and then taking out a permit for 100,000 is pretty cynical, as far as I'm concerned. And then 10,000 show up. Maybe the organizers forgot that there were two conventions to protest recently. How many times are people supposed to show up in big numbers from far away. I bet that each of the 10,000 spent at least $100 for this protest. $100 times 10,000 is $1,000,000. Call it a "Million DOLLAR March." That million plus whatever it cost to put on the thing would have bought a lot of air time and reached many more people. There was almost NO coverage at all of the thing. Good thing that, because if broadcasters wanted to embarrass protesters then all they'd have to say is look, 10,000 people showed up for a million person march, hee-hee. I have no quarrel with people trying something and failing, but trying something and failing and not admitting it is not the right thing to do. To be honest, I'm sorry I went to Boston, New York and DC. What we really need is a few thousand going into the street in every city, like here in Oregon. I've lost faith in these supposed to be BIG protests.

Pro-Kerry? 21.Oct.2004 17:59

Paladin paladin@dmci.net

I agree with Tim's rebuttal to Butler's rather lengthy comments. I was there as well, and it was hardly an all-white, pro-Kerry event, whatever the original intent of the organizers.

I'm a Nader volunteer and, believe me, if the original website had carried even the slightest hint of being a partisan Democratic event, I wouldn't have made the trip. I believe most of the speakers were African-American (I didn't see all of them). And there were quite a few words of criticism for both Bush and Kerry, though, understandably, Bush received the lion's share.

As far as visible Kerry support, I saw only a couple of "Kerry/Edwards" signs, and perhaps a few dozen shirts and/or buttons supporting them. There was a contingent of "Billionaires for Bush" among the crowd, which I suppose could be considered pro-Kerry, though I believe they're more anti-Bush than anything else. But there were at least a dozen folks there, including myself, visibly supporting Ralph Nader as well, and there were others that made their support known to me along the way.

Still, I was disappointed that the attendance wasn't greater. I believe part of the reason was the dampening effect of the AFL-CIO's opposition, but I also suspect that not enough people were even aware of the event. And the main MWM website was sorely lacking in specifics right up until the last minute. Not the best organized political event in the world, but it did offer me a chance to do a bit of networking...

For anyone else who was there, I was the guy with the mustache and goatee sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial holding the "Vote for War in '04" sign. ;-)