Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Where to next? Thinking through May Day in Salem

Our small group did a great deal of work in helping to build the May Day rally and march yesterday. I learned a great deal from the Causa, Oregon School Employee Association, Oregon Latino Health Coalition, PCUN, LUS and associated leaders and activists as we moved through this period of mobilization. Perhaps the most important lessons that I am taking away from this work are that white working-class people should approach the leading people of color organizations and activists in solidarity but with a bit of humility, and that we have to measure a victory against the lived reality of the people in the community. In other words, it’s up to us to take on many tasks which aren’t leadership or out-front positions and we have to know and love the people enough to appreciate that our shared goals need to be measured against uncertainty and fear in the community. We need to adjust our definition of accomplishment and victory to be in line with what the people feel capable of doing.

Telling the truth 

All in all, the Salem May Day events were successful. The rally was well-organized, the speakers were great, the march was spirited and our demands and our presence were easily understood. Connections were made between most key struggles. The spirit of the united front was present, and the day worked well because women and people of color were in the lead. Most of the signage showed real concerns and put forward necessary demands. Many people present were moved to be there by the women’s march and the climate march. The on-the-ground organizing by LUS, Causa, Latino womens' organizations, PCUN, teachers and others flowered yesterday. 

The young people get it

The united front spirit---solidarity in action

The day showed some weaknesses. Uncertainty and fear are real in the Latino community and this inhibited participation. A strike wasn’t possible here, and anger against Trump and a desire for change are not so deeply rooted that we could convince masses of people to take the day, or even a few hours, off from work and school. It’s clear to me that we need to discuss strategies and tactics across our movements and our communities and build deeper unity. We need broad demands and commitments early on from every group to turn out. Getting Governor Brown to the podium yesterday was a victory, but we need to be able to use this forward movement to pressure her and the Democrats to do better with workers’ rights, the hunger strikers in The Dalles, and environmental and climate justice. She needs to know that we’re lining up ahead of her, not behind her. And where were our unions, the climate justice activists, the healthcare activists---the people who we always support and work alongside of? Most of these shortcomings are the result of allies not acting in full solidarity with the people.

I erred by misjudging the moment and putting forward the slogan "No borders, no nations! Stop the deportations!" as we marched. Young people around us, and particularly young women, corrected the error. People here are not yet ready for a maximum and militant (and unrealistic) demand. 

The best way to measure the victory yesterday

What next? Our group is very interested in community forums on strategy and tactics; please contact us if you’re also interested. We have the School Board elections to win: Harder, Blasi and Herrera-Lopez should be voted in. The Latino Health Coalition May 12 lobby day, the SKCE immigration rights forum on May 20, support for the hunger strikers at Tacoma and The Dalles, the Juneteenth Celebration on June 11, and the possibility of a strike at AT&T are all right in front of us. Can we organize a strong demo or event in June for LGBTQIA+ liberation? Can we keep up and increase the pressure at the legislature for core issues like fair wages, no wage theft, grand jury reform, no racial profiling, rent control and housing? Each struggle and each event tests us and gives us the opportunity to broaden the fight against the far-right and for human scale alternatives. There are no shortcuts.

We are a small socialist group, and this is a socialist blog. Really, we're more of a group of socialists than a socialist group---and Salem needs a unitary socialist organization, big-tent and anti-dogmatic and based in workers' and peoples' movements. In this post I am speaking more for myself and less from some kind of consensus in our group. Perhaps our group needs to change a bit; we certainly need to concentrate on organizing and growing. I hope that others will post alternate views. We marched with the people yesterday and did a basic educational leaflet in Spanish and English after we did much to build the rally. We were not there to get the photo op or pose. In fact, we have rejected the kind of weak “vanguardism” and posturing which some others on the left have engaged in. The police repression in Portland and the anarchist response was out of line with reality. So was the group who announced in Salem that they are "bringing the Radical Left to the valley" by having a couple of people holding up a banner on the steps of the Capitol during the rally---that wasn't us, and it's not what we do. It has been said many times on this blog that we’re in it for the long haul and that we’re in it with the oppressed people and the working class---our people.

And from The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels:

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

All photos from Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment