ALL OUT FOR OCTOBER 2nd, BUT FOR WHICH DEMANDS?
The official organizing for the October 2nd Washington, D.C. demonstration, which we hope will be massive, has allowed us to catch a glimpse of a crucial ambiguity underlying the event. Will this demonstration be aimed at demanding that the government finally address the real needs of working people, now that it has made the banks whole, despite everyone's objections? Or will its real purpose be to get Democrats elected to office, in which case demands will be carefully crafted, trimmed, and pre-packaged so as not to embarrass the Democrats and then be used only as bait to lure working people into the election campaigns, not as true goals in themselves?
There is a gaping chasm between these two goals.
While the Democratic Party receives millions of dollars in donations from labor unions, it receives much more from Wall Street and corporate America. Thus, while the Democratic Party currently controls the office of the president and recently enjoyed a super majority in Congress, it refused to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have greatly facilitated organizing unions. It failed to pass substantial legislation to avert foreclosures so that millions of working people have lost their homes and have been plunged into a nightmare of stress.
The Democratic Party did not even remotely entertain the possibility of repealing the union-crippling Taft-Hartley Act, which it promised to do decades ago. The bank regulation that it did pass will not prevent the eruption of another economic crisis from reckless banking speculation, thanks to intensive lobbying by the banks.
The defense budget is now higher than it was when George W. Bush was president. There are still 50,000 U.S. occupation troops in Iraq, while the war in Afghanistan, which cannot be won and we cannot afford to wage, is being ratcheted up, making Obama, too, a "war president." The recent so-called jobs bill the Democrats passed in the U.S. Congress, which will help a tiny percentage of the working people who are in need of jobs, was in part financed by cutting food stamps. Meanwhile, more undocumented immigrants have been deported under the Obama administration than under Bush, with countless families separated.
Government policies that allow for high unemployment, that wage wars for oil, that provide no government-run health care for those under 65, and that allow millions of home foreclosures are by no means accidental. High unemployment keeps wages down and profits up. Wars for oil benefit the most powerful corporations in our society, the oil industry. The health insurance companies lobbied intensely to kill a government health care option. Now they are raising their rates so that working people are forced to pay an additional 14 percent for their health care benefits. And Wall Street is a direct beneficiary of home foreclosures and therefore fought successfully to restrict any serious refinancing possibilities.
The Democrats, who are beholden to Wall Street and corporate American for financial contributions, have defended all these policies with the cynical assumption that what is good for Wall Street and corporate American is good for all of us, although they have wisely chosen not to announce that philosophy publicly.
The Democrats have mastered the rhetoric that working people want to hear: "jobs;" "health care for all;" "peace." And during election season, we are bombarded with these slogans. But they are quietly filed away after the elections. For this reason, the standard of living of working people has been on a steady decline since the 1970s, whether the Democrats or the Republicans have held power. Inequalities in wealth during this same period have been spiraling out of control, resulting in the accumulation of wealth by the rich at historic highs while their taxes have descended to historic lows.
These trends are producing a dysfunctional society, both economically and morally. An economy cannot be sustained with high levels of income inequality, because we working people cannot afford to buy the houses, cars and many other things we produce. Every working person should be able to buy a home, but millions of them now stand empty while workers are mired in debt. And democracy becomes a hollow shell when those at the top of the economic ladder maintain a solid grip on the institutions of government that they then manipulate entirely in their own interests. More and more, working people are becoming aware of these trends and are getting tired of them.
Make no mistake about it. The calling of the October 2nd demonstration is a giant step forward. It will allow working people, who want to put up a fight, to come together in order to begin to give voice to our collective needs. By going into the streets, we will be acting independently of the Democrats and Republicans, relying on ourselves, and raising our demands. The massive size of the demonstration will be a first step toward giving people a sense of the power we can exercise when we are mobilized, organized, and act with a single purpose. Massive, collective, independent action is the only avenue that will provide us with a realistic chance of success. Such demonstrations in the 1930s confirmed time and again that our demands could be won.
But the precise nature of the demands of this demonstration is now the crucial battlefield. We urge our readers to attend this demonstration with the demands that are nothing short of our real needs. The program of the Democratic Party will demoralize people and ensure that our demonstrations are small and listless with ritual applause for rote speeches. But raising our real needs on large banners and signs is the first step in making them public and giving them objective reality. Then they can serve as a rallying point, unite us, give us hope, and inspire future collective actions. Here is what we can demand:
- Create 15 million jobs! Make Wall Street pay!
- Tax the rich to fully fund education and social services!
- Hands off Social Security!
- Stop home foreclosures and evictions!
- Withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan NOW!
- Money for jobs, NOT for wars and prisons!
- Immediate legalization for all undocumented workers!
- Create a single-payer health care system for all!
- Pass the Employee Free Choice Act NOW!
Already contingents are planning to attend the October 2nd demonstration with their own demands. For example, The Peace Table, which is a coalition of 40 antiwar organizations, including U.S. Labor Against War, and is part of One Nation (which is organizing October 2nd), will go without diluting its demands, which stand in direct opposition to Democratic Party policy. It will insist on the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan now, leaving no occupying forces behind, money for jobs and not war, and jobs, peace and justice. There was no indication at its recent conference that it plans to be used to elect Democrats to office, but instead, leaders of the coalition emphasized the importance of building an independent antiwar movement.
The October 2nd demonstration will certainly be one of many, given the ominous downturn the economy is now taking. We can influence the direction of these demonstrations. Go to Washington, D.C. and help give the demands of working people a collective voice!
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin,
Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
phone: (415) 641-8616
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