Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Saturday for Peace and Social Justice

by Norman Markowitz

Trade Unionists, civil rights and peace activists, will demonstrate in Washington today for peace and social justice--for an end to the war in Afghanistan and an end to social neglect and disrespect of labor, the cities, the poor, the majority of people who make up the people of the United States.  This rally is not against the Obama administration but an attempt to move it in the direction that  the great majority of the people who voted for  support.  It is an answer to the Tea Party demagoguery. 
Demonstration are never ends in themselves.  Regardless of the numbers who come, it is important that this demonstration be a beginning  not an end.
Forty seven years ago the National March on Washington took place, the most significant national demonstration in U.S. history.  That demonstration sought to rally support for both pending civil rights legislation but also(as it is often forgotten) jobs and social justice everywhere, an end not only to the brutal system of segregation  in the  South which was supported by police terror which the whole world had seen in Birmingham on U.S. Television and read about in bombings and murders through the South but also about discrimination, poverty and inequality in the North and through the country.  The peace that was at the core of Martin Luther King's dream was "positive peace," peace with social justice, peace without poverty because, as the man whose tactics most inspired King, Mohandas K. Gandhi, once said, poverty produces the greatest violence.
The Vietnam War was not the issue that it would become the following year, and the young President had not yet delivered on what those who voted for ;him hoped he would carry forward.
Today, the war in Afghanistan, a different war against a very different enemy but a distraction and a developing disaster for the administration is a major issue.  Obama as I see it is much better today than John F. Kennedy was in 1963--he is not a cold warrior engaging in the old politics while he talked of a new frontier.  But he faces what has been over thirty years of reaction and also a Republican opposition that is much much more a party of the right and the ultra right than it was in 1963.  There are no Senators like Jacob Javits of New York, Clifford Case of New Jersey or Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, among others in the Republican party today.  Nelson Rockefeller was regarded as a "crypto-Communist" by right wing crazies in 1963.  Today those right wing crazies are largely in control of the GOP and even have their own network, Fox News, to promulgate their world view.
The March on Washington helped usher in a bold shift in domestic policy--not by Kennedy who was of course assassinated, but by Lyndon Johnson, who articulated many of the demonstrators aspirations in his call for a Great Society and an "unconditional" War on Poverty in 1964 and his successful push to enact Civil Rights and social legislation to advance those goals.  That program, along with justified fears among voters that his right wing Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, would engage in policies that would escalate the cold war with the Soviet Union into a much greater conflict--possibly a nuclear war--led  to a sweeping repudiation of the political right in the 1964  elections and the enactment of new civil rights and social legislation, a second wave of progressive legislation which Johnson's Vietnam War escalation, divisions among progressive forces,and a racist backlash stalemated.
Obama has Kennedy eloquence without Johnson's cold war baggage.  But he faces a racist backlash which increasingly is not so subtle and the war in Afghanistan is, along with the frustrations developing from the compromises that he has accepted with corporate and especially finance capital on domestic policy.
But I and I hope we are not anarchists or in the ultra-left tradition that always says "the worse the better."  I don't believe that a righwing Republican victory and a third wave of Reaganism will create such a disaster as to strengthen left forces to the point that the whole system will change  or even be overthrown.  I don't believe attacking Obama and attacking those on the left who continue to defend what his administration is trying to do is anything more in this context than what Communists sometimes said of their Trotskyists and other ultra-left opponents who made similar attacks on them for supporting the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s--that is, the ultra-left was engaging in "intellectual masturbation" with no possibility of reaching masses of people to consummate anything.
President Obama will hopefully see this demonstration as a mobilization for what he ran on--change we can believe in."  He can and must pick up the ball that the people have handed him and run with it in the next month, signaling progressives that he will de-escalate the conflict in Afghanistan and push legislation to "bailout the people" in the next Congress, if the people give him the votes to do so.T
The demonstration itself will hopefully encourage mobilization against the Republican right, immediately in the elections and then on an ongoing basis.   This is the only realistic and responsible program for progressive in the present moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We can heartily agree with brother Markowitz that heros MLK and mentor Ghandi identified poverty as the "greatest" kind of violence.
That poverty stalks the United States of America today,and especially its children,roughly half living in it.
The violence of poverty retards the vitality of our youth,transforming our erstwhile teeming great cities of industrial
production;New York,Newark,Atlanta,Detroit,Chicago,Cleveland,Cincinati,St.Louis,Houston,Dallas,Seattle,San Francisco,Los Angeles to bombed-out ghost towns
of gun violence, crime,drugs,alcohol,police repression and fear.These cities increasingly devoid of public hospitals,public schools,public libraries,health departments and municipal water works.
It was humanities' old friend singer/actor Harry Belafonte who juxtaposed wars and human needs,when he said that the trillions squandered on wars could be used to create millions of jobs,build schools,hospitals and recreate our nation's crumbled infrastructure.
Strikingly,brother Belafonte told us that the Tea Party forces were a clear danger which threatens to impose a "totalitarian" government on our democracy and that this threat must be countered by our jamming the voting polls and boths on 2 Nov 2010 with millions and millions to reverse this threat.
This mindless,viscious,pro-poverty,anti-communist,anti-socialist,racist,anti-unionist,anti-government movement of Tea Partiers,spewing hate and division,threaten a third "red scare" from which humanity may not rebound.
This mindless,viscious,animal of unregulated capitalism and imperialism has been seriously wounded by the democracy of the Barack Hussein Obama administration,and it is countering with,fear,violence,racism,insanity and lawlessness of the Tea Party and poverty,which test the palate of humanity for modern day fascism.
The poor,the huddled,the peace fighters,the unionist and the unemployed student:the citizens and future citizens of our country must stop this Tea Party movement now. The price of our freedom is always less than cost of slavery they would impose,to paraphrase the great W.E.B. Du Bois,the author of the 1963 March on Washington's struggle for economic rights for the whole people of the United States of America.