How we make more of a march

February 1, 2018

WITH THE possible exception of a march on Russia's Winter Palace in October 1917, all demonstrations fall short of the ideal.

This is especially true when an analysis begins with reducing an action to its demands, speakers and composition. Yes, all these components are important and should be factored in when evaluating the recent Women's Marches, but none of them, in isolation, tells the whole story. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The overarching demand "March to the Polls" is vague enough to be almost formless. It doesn't take a political savant to realize that behind this demand is the implicit call to elect Democrats in the 2020 elections.

By keeping the demand "March to the Polls," rather than, "Vote for the Democratic Party," the organizers greatly broadened the outreach of the mobilization. They were savvy enough to understand that the movement for women's rights is bigger than their narrow objectives. It is up to socialists to be just as savvy.

Inside the anti-Vietnam War movement there was an ongoing fight over the principle demand to be made at large demonstrations. One side argued for "Negotiations Now," the other side fought for "Bring the Troops Home Now."

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The "Negotiations Now," demand, at least in my opinion, had a reformist aspect to it, implying that the there was some legitimacy to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam that could and should be worked out through talks. On the other hand, "Bring the Troops Home Now" was a clear call for the American intervention to come to an end, full stop.

However, when real demonstrations with real people occurred, the exact demands were secondary. People came out to oppose the war, and the demonstrations furthered that cause.

When over a million people take time out on a Saturday in January to demonstrate, attention must be paid. With such a large number of people involved generalizations are impossible. Whether the participants knew it or not, they were taking part in a movement.

It is the "move" part of movement that most concerns us. By taking to the streets, many for the most time, consciousness can be changed, not uniformly, or to the same degree, but changed nonetheless. One way to make absolutely certain that this change is misdirected or short-circuited or co-opted is for revolutionary socialists to abstain from participating in actions like the recent Women's March.

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