Saturday, April 15, 2017

Agitate, Educate, Organize! Power To The People!---A Look At Some Recent Protests, Actions And Organizing In Salem

Over the past two weeks we have seen a number of successful events in Salem which have the potential to help consolidate the opposition to Trump and build an alternative. We have also seen some less successful events which point out particular weaknesses and can serve as warning signs and to particular needs. It needs to be remembered that the U.S. bombings in Syria and Afghanistan and the possibility of an attack on North Korea and the ICE actions, the on-going police attacks against people of color and the violence directed against anti-Trump protesters point to a much more dangerous environment and show connections between imperialism in crisis and repression at home.

In the positive column we have local on-going work by Pedro Sosa and the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition and local anti-ICE efforts. A partial schedule of Know Your Rights and Rapid Response Team trainings from these groups is as follows:

April 25 RRT training in Lebanon, OR
April 28th; KYR in Portland
May 3rd; KYR in Salem,
May 5th; KYR in Salem
May 6th: RRT Training in Polk County
May 17th: KYR at Clackamas Community College.
May 20th RRT training in Medford

Also in the positive column are the recent demonstration against Oregonians For Immigration Reform (OFIR), today's demo demanding that Trump release his tax returns, the lobby day and march and rally supporting HB 2004 and tenant's rights, the Jo Ann Hardesty talk organized by Salem and the forum on the school board elections organized by Progressive Salem.

I think that successful events happen here when people of color and women lead, when capable people do the organizing, when we are in sync with national and regional actions, when we have good speakers and when we have candidates who really are different than the oatmeal offered by the centrists or the hardtack thrown at us by the Republicans.

The demo against OFIR was small, but it was a coalition effort which came together quickly and which aimed (successfully) at bothering OFIR. The left really showed our stuff last Wednesday when people lobbied and rallied for HB 2004; the success was in identifying an issue to win on, mobilizing people, building a coalition, having labor support and having women and people of color leading. The Jo Ann Hardesty talk gave us some theory and ideas on how to test theories on organizing.

The Progressive Salem school board elections forum featured Kathleen Harder, Sherrone Blasi and Levi Herrrera-Lopez. I went prepared to support Levi Herrera-Lopez and Sherrone Blasi, and curious to know more about Kathleen Harder. Harder won me over, and Herrera-Lopez has the vision needed and a sense of forward movement and innovative possibilities, but Blasi disappointed me when she went to old-school (no pun intended) solutions like truant officers and fines to insure school attendance. On the other hand, she has needed skills in measuring achievements and progress which liberals usually lack. The three candidates get the structural disparities which hold kids back here in Salem. The forum ended before we could hear their views on testing and grappling with a state budget in crisis. Progressive Salem remains rather top-down and formal, and it remains to be seen if they can move Salem and Marion County Democrats in a more positive direction and ally with others to the left.

Perhaps that takes us to the negative column. There was a tiny antiwar demo downtown after the bombing in Syria while there is good reason to believe that there is either mass opposition to that bombing and the bombing in Afghanistan or, at least, great unease over it. The U.S. lacks an antiwar movement, a casualty of the Obama years and centrist Democratic Party influences, and the left isn't giving to the people what is needed---a center for real and needed united protest. We're great on tenant's rights, environmental justice and local political races---and we're working on being better allies with people of color struggles---but we have not yet fully taken in a "serve the people" ethos and actions. People in the U.S. deserve an antiwar/anti-imperialist movement which doesn't make support or opposition to Assad and the North Korean leadership a condition of joining. What is more important to us in immediate terms is that an antiwar/anti-imperialist effort block the ascendancy of the most pro-war forces and the Democrats who enable them. The antiwar action in Salem should have drawn hundreds or thousands.

We have some opportunities to get it right. There is the April 22 March for Science, May Day and a lobby day for healthy kids (regardless of immigration status) coming up. Causa is doing fundraising and there is an upcoming fundraiser for DACA youth scholarships. Fundraising means long-term stability and on-going strategies for social change. Winning on healthy kids means a step towards turning the anti-immigrant tide. April 22 means gathering in the anti-Trump forces. May Day means that we have a day as the working-class and as the left to support immigrants, immigrant rights and broad demands for social change. This May Day will be a test for all of us: does opposing Trump mean more to you than going to work or school?

Join us at the State Capitol on Monday, May 1 at 11:30.  

Let's not stop at critiquing what exists and either supporting or not supporting what's happening. What about holding a community forum on strategy and tactics and debating the issues? What about moving more of our meetings and actions into northeast Salem and east of Lancaster? What about forming a Salem Tenants Union or working to block gentrification on Portland Road? What about forming a collective working on accompanying people to immigration and related legal hearings? What about forming committees of medical workers, legal workers and people of faith to do serve-the-people work? What about a large socialist political organization, or an alliance of radical groups? What about insisting that every effort be led by people of color, women and LGBTQIA+ people or have real solidarity with women, LGBTQIA+ people and people of color built in to their strategies and tactics? 

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