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January 21 an historic mobilization

Steven Xavier

In an historic mobilization, the Women’s March on Washington and hundreds of other cities across the US, and worldwide, drew millions of women and their supporters. What began with a call for a women’s march, without a political program and without the support of traditional women’s movement organizations and unions, gained the support of labor organizations and the feminist mainstream. As the mobilization gained steam, the organizers broadened the participation of women of color and came up with a progressive platform for the March. 

Turnout far exceeded the expectations of organizers in every location, with public transit systems in several cities, especially in Washington, swamped by the number of riders. In some places, organizers were forced by the numbers in attendance to change the locations of rallies or march routes. Media outlets commented on the size of the January 21 demonstrations relative to the “modest” attendance at the Trump Inaugural. Crowds were estimated  at between 500,000 and one million in DC, as well as more than 200,000 in Denver, New York, Boston, and Chicago. As many as 750,000 are reported to have marched in Los Angeles and up to 100,000 in Philadelphia. Even smaller locations like Wilmington, NC (1000) and Lancaster, PA (200) reported better than expected attendance. 

The counter-inaugural demonstrations on January 20, that were organized by a variety of left organizations, were spirited but represented a much narrower political base than were mobilized the next day. The Port of Oakland was temporarily shut down as ILWU longshore workers sicked out in protest of the Trump inauguration. 

January 20

Rallies in most cities were dominated by liberals and Democrats. Filmmaker Michael Moore, speaking in DC, said that  “we have to take over the Democratic Party. ..”  Other speakers, including elected Democrats and celebrities, tried to situate the resistance to Trump inside the Democratic Party. Many referred to the failed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, as an example for women. While many of the participants and speakers look to the Democrats to build “resistance” to Trump, their confidence is misplaced. It’s a mistake to critique this march from the left based on the composition of the speakers list at the rally. The platform put forward by the march organizers is to the left of what the Democrats would be willing to be willing to fight for. This reflects the pressure of forces frustrated with the Democrats’ subservience to Wall Street.

In her remarks to the rally Angela Davis said, “This is a women’s march and this women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. And inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.”  

January 22 marked the 44th anniversary of the Roe V Wade decision, which legalized abortion for women in the US. Since the Supreme Court decision in 1973, the extreme right has been waging an offensive against women’s reproductive freedom.

The historic Women’s March on Washington, which mobilized more than 4 million women and their supporters, was an initial skirmish in the coming counter-offensive against the War on Women.

“The women’s movement begins, like other movements for liberation, by putting forward elementary demands, such as equal opportunities with men in education, jobs and equal pay; for free abortions on demand; for childcare centers financed by the government but controlled by the community. Mobilizing women behind these issues not only gives us the possibility of securing some improvements but exposes, curbs and modifies the worst aspects of our subordination in this society.” Evelyn Reed

The lessons of mass action

Mass action is a working class method of struggle, it helps people to realize the potential power they have in society. It also puts the rulers on notice that their reactionary agenda is not the view of the majority – that we will resist them at every juncture.

The protests of the last two days aren’t going to stop Trump from doing anything. But even if we just say these demonstrations are simply taking the temperature of the population that wants to do something about Trump – then that temperature is BOILING OVER. This is a signal that we need to do the organizing work and build a durable resistance capable of grinding all of the attacks of Trump and his cronies to a halt.

Going forward, we need to recognize the need for a political alternative to the Democrats. The Democratic Party has proven itself incapable and unwilling to defend the basic needs of working people. They have been the “softer” party of neoliberal austerity, globalized outsourcing, and privatization. It’s instructive that Bernie Sanders attended the Inauguration instead of staying away like 67 members of Congress who boycotted the Trump coronation. In the period leading up to the Women’s March Sanders did nothing to build attendance of this historic manifestation. He was noticeably absent among the rally speakers in DC, choosing instead to speak in Burlington, VT.

Some suggested steps forward

The alternative, going forward, depends on our ability to mobilize the working class and oppressed in defense of their rights and interests. This requires an orientation to building mass movements and real grassroots resistance to the agenda of this administration.

The AFL-CIO bureaucracy should be preparing to mobilize the rank and file, instead of indicating their willingness to give Trump a “chance” or pledging to “work with” him. Given the hostility of the current regime to working people and unions and their stated intent to enact a national right-to-work law, mass mobilization is a question of self-preservation. It remains to be seen whether the union tops will lead a fight back or give in as they have so many times over the past 3 decades. As working people build resistance to the employers offensive, we have to begin preparing a new leadership for the unions that fights for all workers and the oppressed.


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