Attempts were recently made by the far-right to intimidate staff from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration at their homes while the right-wing Freedom Foundation seeks to bust public employee unions, and now anti-maskers are attacking retail workers on their jobs in Salem. Intentionally or not, they are working hand-in-hand against working people. Where are our liberal and radical friends when it comes to attacks against workers and our unions? Where are our unions when it comes to leading an all-peoples front against our enemies? We return to the point that solidarity is not a two-way street in Salem, and we add that it sometimes feels that this is by design and intent by some people.
Our City Council appears to be progressive in much the same way that a few members of our School Board and the Superintendent once appeared to be progressive, but the people now have only two or three voices on the City Council (and none at the School Board). The real estate industry, the Chamber of Commerce, the banks, and the Salem Leadership Foundation are positioned to head off progressive change, and they are probably relieved that they have not taken heat for their roles over the past year. The police and the people who work behind the scenes at the County, City, and School Board levels work very hard to redirect that heat and deplete our progressive energy. Many non-profits help to soften the blow and redirect our energy and heat as well.
Politics here remains a matter of personalities---Paul Evans’ push for power, Shemia Fagan’s extended run for Governor, the short-lived Tina Kotek/Janelle Bynum controversy and deal, Bill Post on the radio, the right-wing focus on Kate Brown. Politics should be about political programs, struggle, and forward motion. It should not be about agreeing to disagree or conciliating or convincing people that we’re all on the same team; there is an “us” and a “them” that needs to be understood and used correctly. What force is there in Salem, or in Oregon, that can make politics all about a working-class and oppressed peoples’ struggle for forward movement?
Still, we must ask how is it that Rep. Nearman may have let the fascists into the State Capitol on December 21, that Rep. Cliff Bentz supports Trump and the right-wing terrorists and holds office, that Rep. Bill Post can waffle on the coup attempt and still hold office and be named as Assistant Deputy Leader of the Oregon House Republicans? Post’s case is instructive: he is no doubt getting support and protection from agribusiness for his effort to cut the agriculture minimum wage for workers under 21 years of age.
We have been through the fires, but rural Oregon continues to suffer. We are hitting a high point in new COVID cases, and Marion County’s infections and deaths are way out of line with our population numbers and our healthcare systems. Houselessness appears to be growing. These are systemic problems that are not going to be solved by individual effort, but saying this does not get individuals off the hook. If we dwell only on the bad news and our desperation, we disempower ourselves and one another. Radicals here are indeed surrounded. Breaking out of this encirclement can only be done by building relations with the working-class and oppressed peoples and through strategic united front (coalition) work.