How Shall We Hang?
We can hang together or separately, as the saying goes.
Almost everybody I’ve talked to wants to “do something” right away as concerns the anti-worker government anticipated for January 20, 2017. For several nights after the election results were announced, thousands protested in the streets of several cities, including mine. As far as I could find out, they had a lot of enthusiasm but no program, no structure, and no strategy.
A month and a half later, we still don’t.
I’ve been asking around about inauguration weekend. So far, it sounds like there will be three rallies, one march, some people going off to the state capital and others going to the national capital. There are probably several more activities being cooked up.
The problem is that there is no coordination among them. As far as I’ve been able to find out, each of them is sponsored by one separate group of people and has demands created by and for solely that group.
Can We Afford to Stay Divided?
As far as I know, the progressive movement in my town (Dallas) has always been divided this way and that. Every naive young innocent who ever got involved has said, “We’ve got to get together!” And of course it’s true, but I’ve never seen anybody do it.
The book I’ve been promoting, “Runaway Inequality” talks about “silos” and says that all the progressive groups are in their own silos. The solution, says author Les Leopold, is that we have to come out of our silos and start working together. He doesn’t say why we’re in those silos to begin with, nor how to get out.
The basic reason for the silos is funding. Nearly all “progressive” organizations have to raise money. In that sense, they are competitors for the almighty dollar, not partners in any real sense. No matter what high-minded reasons people may have had for creating an organization, their main purpose in life soon becomes raising enough money to pay staff salaries, not whatever they originally intended to accomplish. In a very real sense, they are exactly like churches, most of whom seem to have lost their sense of purpose centuries ago, and they have to raise money or die! How do you change that?
You have to appeal to individuals. Bernie Sanders showed us that it can be done and how to do it.
Why Can’t We Just Hit the Streets?
The main problem with “knee jerk” activism is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Witness the Occupy movement that had thousands of charged-up protesters. They had no program, in fact they deliberately avoided having a program. As a result, they left nothing behind but some really good slogans and memories. But there’s another, very serious, reason to be cautious about spontaneous street actions.
Leftists may not continue to own the streets in America. Remember, that the progressives in Germany tried to take on the better-organized, more unscrupulous, and better financed Storm Troopers in the streets, but it didn’t work out well for them!
In our lifetimes, leftists and leftist causes pretty much ruled the streets. The fascists have stayed inside the corporate boardrooms and left picketing, street rallies, and marches to the riff-raff (us). But Mr Trump regularly puts together rallies of tens of thousands of hotheads today, and he has already shown that he’s willing to encourage violence against any detractor!
I’m not saying we shouldn’t rule the streets. But we aren’t in the same situation we were in before November 8, 2016. It’s different now.
One Proposal for Unity
Progressive people who want to survive and thrive during the Trump Administration need serious strategies for coordinated activity. My proposal is a series of “teach ins,” conference calls, and, possibly, “retreats” to work on programs and to coordinate activities. At the very least, we could set up a “clearing house” function so that different groups would know what the others were planning.
Labor, as the most responsible and most consistently progressive part of the left, needs to center itself in this process.
Everybody going their own whichaway isn’t affordable any more.
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