The October 2nd “One Nation” event has been pegged as a march for jobs for all, and “and an economy that works for working people; funding for education and health care, not warfare; clean, renewable energy; civil, women’s, labor, and LGBT rights; and comprehensive immigration reform” according to SEIU 1199’s President John Gresham. NAACP president Ben Jealous, who along with SEIU initiated the call, said this is a rally for jobs and to “stop moving money out of education and into wars and prisons.” The rally is backed by the labor movement and many social justice, peace and women’s organizations.
The AFL-CIO’s Executive Council issued a statement to the effect that the labor federation’s view of the rally was to be used to “charge up an army of tens of thousands of activists who will return to their neighborhoods, churches, schools and, especially, voting booths, with new energy to enact our common agenda,” – an electoral rally to get out the vote and support the Democrats in November.
Initial reports seem to point toward a massive mobilization converging on Washington on the day. According to reports, 3,000 buses have been chartered from New York alone, and a number of unions reporting mobilizing their members from the North East and the Mid Atlantic states. While some of the organizers clearly intend to use the event as a campaign rally for the Democrats who are facing an uphill fight in November, others will see it as an opportunity to protest mass unemployment, continued wars, and bailouts for the rich, and express their dissatisfaction with Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
The continuing economic crisis, with millions of foreclosures, tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed, and serious attacks on wages, public education and social spending (not to mention the disaster that parades as “healthcare or Wall Street reform,” ) the continuation of the Bush war policies while profits and bonuses for Wall Street have rebounded have provoked a huge backlash of anger and frustration among broad sections of workers against Obama and the Democrats, even among their core supporters.
In the absence of an alternative by the union leadership and the left, this anger has provided fuel for the right-wing populist Tea Party movement especially among older whites. In reality, the anger is directed at both parties with 58% according to a new poll saying they would support a third party, and 75% disapproving the job done by congress. Obama’s popularity has dropped to 45%.
Now the union leaders and all those who had enormous illusions that Obama and the Democrats would deliver some kind of change, face a serious problem in the mid-term elections, where the Republicans are looking to make important gains in Congress.
The October 2nd rally should be seen as opportunity to campaign for a broad left movement to begin to organize across the country to challenge the Tea Party, the Republicans and the Democrats who have delivered nothing for working people. The failures of Obama and the Democrats are not due to character flaws but due to the very nature of the Democratic Party which is controlled lock stock and barrel by the corporate establishment. It should not be forgotten that it was Clinton who -among other things- passed NAFTA, founded the WTO, attacked welfare benefits, cut thousands of federal workers jobs, initiated sanctions that cost thousands of lives in Iraq and bombed former Yugoslavia.
Socialists should build for the October 2nd rally in order to popularize the idea of the need for struggle and to build a broad movement in every city among broad sections of workers and young people to fight against budget cuts and unemployment and make the rich pay for the crisis of their system. It is also important to popularize the idea of the need to electorally challenge the Democrats with anti-corporate, independent, and socialist candidates, which may be small at this stage but can galvanize the most advanced progressive workers and young people.
It is important to remind people that the AFL-CIO and SEIU alone will be spending $100 million to support the same Democrats who delivered nothing for workers and instead opened the door for the Tea Party and the Republicans. This money and the 1,500 hundred field organizers at the disposal of the union movement would be much better used if they were going to support independent workers candidates and building a mass party of working people who would campaign for taxes on the rich, an end to wars, nationalizing the banking and energy industry under democratic workers’ control and management. That would be the real change people imagined when Obama was elected.
Members of Socialist Alternative are campaigning for co-workers and young people to come to Washington on October 2nd. We will be at the rally with banners, signs and newspapers demanding an end to war funding and corporate welfare with the resources being allocated to education, public works and green jobs. We’ll also be demanding public ownership under democratic workers’ control of polluting industries with retraining and fully pay and benefits for the workers involved. Socialist Alternative will be promoting the need to set up coalitions to fight back against budget cuts and layoffs with an approach that involves mass action and democratic decision-making.
The Socialist Alternative banner will boldy declare: “Wall Street Has Two Parties—We Need One of Our Own! Fund Jobs and Education, Not War and Wall Street!” This banner will stand out as a call to break for the two corporate parties as part of a strategy to improve living standards for working people.
Dan La Botz, socialist candidate for Ohio Senate, has organized a “Socialist Contingent” that will gather at 12th Street and Constitution NW at 10am. Socialist Alternative will be endorsing this contingent although participating in many others as well. If you are interested to join us at the rally, then contact the Socialist Alternative branch nearest you or call Jesse at 617-283-9108.