Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wave of protests throughout United States challenges Trump agenda

women's march Washington January 2017


I recently returned from a month-long cycling trip through South-East Asia, from Hanoi to Bangkok, followed by a couple of weeks visiting comrades in Australia, hence the silence of this blog since year-end 2016. During this period some important developments have occurred in global politics.

During the following days, I will reproduce on this site a number of articles published during the last month that follow up on issues some of which I have previously addressed here and that in my opinion are especially worthy of reproduction.

I start with an article by US socialist Barry Sheppard on the massive Women’s March in protest against the agenda threatened by the newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump. The Washington march was accompanied by parallel marches in many countries, many drawing large numbers of participants. Sheppard’s analysis of the significance of these demonstrations is borne out by the “Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles” of the march organizers, appended to his article.

The wave of opposition in the streets to the Trump agenda, touched off by the women’s marches, has continued since then throughout the United States — posing the possibility that the rightward shift in US official politics may prompt the formation in response of progressive coalitions and more informal alliances among newly radicalized social forces that build in part on the massive popular support for a “socialist” alternative registered in Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 primaries.

– Richard Fidler


Huge Women’s March Against Trump Attacks

By Barry Sheppard

The first thing to note about the massive women’s march on the day after the inaugural of Trump was that while it centered on fighting against his agenda to roll back women’s rights and dignity, it also expressly included fightback against his anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Native American, anti-Arab, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-climate change, anti-LGBT, anti-health care etc. policies he championed throughout his election campaign. (See accompanying Defining Vision and Definition of Principles of the March.)

The second thing to note was its size. While initially projected as a March on Washington, solidarity demonstrations were held in 600-700 cities and towns across the country. In Washington the police estimated over 500,000 took part. From a list compiled by experts that included only a fraction of those places, and which had estimated figures (low and high), and looking only at places that had 1,000 demonstrators or more using the low estimates, I counted over four million and one hundred thousand participants.

This demonstration was the largest in U.S. history.

The majority of marchers were women, with a significant minority of male supporters. Many interviewed by news media indicated that this was their first protest, ever.

Marchers were angry and determined to oppose Trump’s agenda on many different issues. Some utilized satire. Many women came with homemade knitted hats that featured cats’ ears. Household cats are called “pussycats”, and this was a reference to Trump’s infamous remarks that his exalted status entitled him to grab any women by the genitals. Posters and speakers alluded to the same reference. Some speakers identified themselves as “nasty women,” a reference to Trump’s misogynistic attack on Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman.”

Speakers hammered away on particular issues, from healthcare to trans rights. All noted the huge size of the demonstrations and how they and everyone present felt greatly empowered by seeing so many others who felt as they do. Different speakers addressed through their own personal experience the issues raised in the “Defining Vision.”

Another major theme was that the energy of the action should continue in the days ahead, through local organizing, discussion and reaching out to new people.

The march was projected by a few women on social media the day after the election, and kept snowballing. Young women of color were in the lead. This recalls the leadership role of young women in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The leadership was broadened out to include women leaders of all races and from many organizations, who issued the Guiding Vision for the march.

The New York Times earlier interviewed some white women who pulled out of the march because the “Vision” included “race.” Nevertheless, large numbers of white women joined.

White women predominated in the Washington march and the other cities, although women of all races participated. While this fact demonstrates the need to reach out better to women of color, there is another important side.

These white women marched together with Black, Brown and Yellow women. They cheered the many women of color on the stage. They cheered the Muslim women in hijabs who spoke and chaired, the Black trans woman who spoke, as well as the speakers from the other categories of women the “Vision” listed. These white women came out and demonstrated against Trump, whatever they thought about all the demands.

There is no question that all of these white women, including those for whom this was their first protest, were exposed to a great educational experience, and they learned a lot from whom they were marching with, and from the explanations from the stage. The same is true of many of the Black and other colored women present.

All the women on the demonstrations also learned that the best way to fight for whatever particular issues they were most concerned about is to unite with all women under attack by the Trump authoritarian administration. Trump was the great unifier of this historic action.

The “Guiding Vision and Defining Principles” moved well beyond narrow “identity” politics to an understanding that all forms of oppression in this society are related. To fight one aspect means to fight on all these fronts. This statement complements the platform issued by Black Lives Matter some months ago.

Marxists have an important role to play in this discussion. We can explain how all these forms of oppression have their roots in the history and functioning of U.S. capitalism, and their relation to the fundamental division in capitalist society between the ruling capitalist class and the exploited working class. Our vision of a working class revolution to overturn capitalism is not a narrow one of simply ending the exploitation of the working class, but ending all forms of oppression, injustice, humiliation, violence and war — to be a champion of all and every fight against all the wrongs of this capitalist society.

Given the very low level of working class struggle in the U.S. at present, this can appear as very abstract. But it charts a road forward, as we participate as the best fighters we can be in the immediate struggles ahead.

This leads to a final point, unfortunately a negative one. While some unions, especially teachers, endorsed the Women’s March, the majority of unions did not, and that includes the AFL-CIO, the major union federation.

Marxists have a role to play in our unions, too, to fight against this self-defeating trend and bring into all these struggles the power of organized workers — a big job. But a necessary one. If the present unions do not reach out to support all the oppressed, they will continue to shrivel and be less and less a factor in U.S. politics — let alone win support for their own struggles against the bosses and the bosses’ government, now personified by Donald Trump.

January 25, 2017


Women’s March Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles

  • We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. This is the basic and original tenet from which all our values stem.
  • We believe Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice. We must create a society in which women — in particular Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women — are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.
  • Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of violence against our bodies. One in three women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime; and one in five women have been raped. Further, each year, thousands of women and girls, particularly Black, indigenous and transgender women and girls, are kidnapped, trafficked, or murdered. We honor the lives of those women who were taken before their time and we affirm that we work for a day when all forms of violence against women are eliminated.
  • We believe in accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. Women of color are killed in police custody at greater rates than white women, and are more likely to be sexually assaulted by police. We also call for an immediate end to arming police with the military grade weapons and military tactics that are wreaking havoc on communities of color. No woman or mother should have to fear that her loved ones will be harmed at the hands of those sworn to protect.
  • We believe it is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system. The rate of imprisonment has grown faster for women than men, increasing by 700% since 1980, and the majority of women in prison have a child under the age of 18. Incarcerated women also face a high rate of violence and sexual assault. We are committed to ensuring access to gender-responsive programming and dedicated healthcare including substance abuse treatment, mental and maternal health services for women in prison. We believe in the promise of restorative justice and alternatives to incarceration. We are also committed to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline that prioritizes incarceration over education by systematically funneling our children — particularly children of color, queer and trans youth, foster care children, and girls — into the justice system.
  • We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.
  • We believe in Gender Justice. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes. We must free ourselves and our society from the institution of awarding power, agency and resources disproportionately to masculinity to the exclusion of others.
  • We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. This includes access to non-judgmental, comprehensive healthcare with no exceptions or limitations; access to name and gender changes on identity documents; full anti- discrimination protections; access to education, employment, housing and benefits; and an end to police and state violence.
  • We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. We believe that creating workforce opportunities that reduce discrimination against women and mothers allow economies to thrive. Nations and industries that support and invest in caregiving and basic workplace protections — including benefits like paid family leave, access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, fair pay, vacation time, and healthy work environments — have shown growth and increased capacity.
  • We believe in equal pay for equal work and the right of all women to be paid equitably. We must end the pay and hiring discrimination that women, particularly mothers, women of color, lesbian, queer and trans women still face each day in our nation. Many mothers have always worked and are in our modern labor force; and women are now 50% of all family breadwinners. We stand for the 82% of women who become moms, particularly moms of color, being paid, judged, and treated fairly. Equal pay for equal work will lift families out of poverty and boost our nation’s economy.
  • We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy. We further affirm that all care work — caring for the elderly, caring for the chronically ill, caring for children and supporting independence for people with disabilities — is work, and that the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women, particularly women of color. We stand for the rights, dignity, and fair treatment of all unpaid and paid caregivers. We must repair and replace the systemic disparities that permeate caregiving at every level of society.
  • We believe that all workers — including domestic and farm workers — must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.
  • We believe Civil Rights are our birthright. Our Constitutional government establishes a framework to provide and expand rights and freedom — not restrict them. To this end, we must protect and restore all the Constitutionally-mandated rights to all our citizens, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability.
  • We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Most Americans believe the Constitution guarantees equal rights, but it does not. The 14th Amendment has been undermined by courts and cannot produce real equity on the basis of race and/or sex. And in a true democracy, each citizen’s vote should count equally. All Americans deserve equality guarantees in the Constitution that cannot be taken away or disregarded, recognizing the reality that inequalities intersect, interconnect and overlap.
  • Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. It is our moral duty to keep families together and empower all aspiring Americans to fully participate in, and contribute to, our economy and society. We reject mass deportation, family detention, violations of due process and violence against queer and trans migrants. Immigration reform must establish a roadmap to citizenship, and provide equal opportunities and workplace protections for all. We recognize that the call to action to love our neighbor is not limited to the United States, because there is a global migration crisis. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.
  • We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed — especially at the risk of public safety and health.

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