Activists and organizers from every social justice movement were stunned by the election of right-wing billionaire businessman Donald Trump. Angry demonstrations tens of thousands strong filled streets in cities and towns across the country and the world.
In December the Freedom Socialist Party sponsored forums in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Melbourne, Australia to discuss the meaning of Trump’s victory — and what is next for the movements. Passionate discussions and powerful ideas poured out from speakers and audiences eager to build solidarity and counteract the big business, right-wing assaults they expect from the Trump presidency.
Rising threats from the right. Attendees raised the need to stand up to the growing far right emboldened by Trump’s campaign. These politics arise out of deep economic crisis worldwide. In response to unemployment and general economic collapse, the “1 percent,” like Trump, offers scapegoats instead of solutions.
Discussions on how to respond to these urgent times raised many issues. Among them were how to get united in the current upsurge; the need for an independent labor party; the possibility of the socialist Left to drop its sectarianism; how best to involve young people; is capitalism fixable? What is the role for a revolutionary socialist party? Many raised the need for a unity based on defense of our class, not supporting the bosses’ party candidates.
Solidarity is the key. The current right-wing ascension has prompted our side to organize together. Enhanced by a refreshing willingness to cooperate, this bodes well for some very successful mobilizing.
In Los Angeles, long time civil libertarian Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild challenged the Left to “get their houses in order.” He predicted that principled collaboration among activists would give courage and hope to the millions of working and oppressed people who are eager to fight alongside effective leadership.
This sentiment was echoed by a few left party representatives and by a huge number of attendees in all the cities.
Some of the organizations attending were the Green Party, the Progressive Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Labor for Palestine. A large number of community organizers participated.
Puyallup Tribe leader Ramona Bennett brought the family of a Native American woman murdered by a Tacoma, Wash. police officer to the Seattle forum. “The FSP,” she explained, “is an important part of tribal history. Our work together is not just memories. Situations like now bring us together naturally. “
NYC speaker Suzanne Adele from Labor for Palestine urged folks to support their work in defense of Muslims. Bay Area speaker Kristina Lee, a rape counselor, said she was finished with the Democratic Party for how it treated Bernie Sanders and with him for then campaigning for that party.
Unionists in several cities wanted to explore the idea of an independent labor party, built from the bottom up, and run by the members as a political alternative to the Democrats. Australian attendees drew connections between the Trump victory and the England’s Brexit vote, and compared Australia’s fight against the rising right wing with what people face in the U.S.
Passion and disagreements were aired in discussions on how to address the escalating racism and police violence against Blacks and other people of color. Some thought that whites could never understand racism, or that Blacks shouldn’t be expected to lead since they had been in the lead for so long. Yet others said radical change could never happen unless our multi-racial class fights on the same side. Several pointed out that a good place to do this is on the job and in unions, both already more integrated than other places in our lives. LA FSP speaker Yolanda Alaniz stressed that capitalism was built on racism and that is not going to change, so our only alternative is to replace it with socialism.
Putting it all together. Most participants in each of the forums recognized that unity among leftists, liberals, socialists, anarchists, etc. was both necessary and possible. Every forum was filled with just such trouble-makers.
The bigger question was how? FSP’s advice is don’t mourn, organize — not just for the next demonstration, but get involved in an organization, because that’s where lasting power builds. Every city has opportunities to mobilize around urgent issues, such as community police review boards, healthcare, homelessness, abortion rights, anti-Muslim registries, etc.
But for any of them to get the support needed to grow and win some battles, workers need the vehicle for organizing the ultimate goal — “a brave new world,” as FSP co-founder Clara Fraser put it. Revolution needs a leadership party, one that studies the history and lessons of working-class struggle, and that develops the best fighters of the multiply oppressed into political professionals trained for the long haul.
Seize the time! Black Panthers, socialists, feminists, environmentalists, immigrant rights and youth activists, unionists — rebels all, left the evening committed to a higher level of collaboration. A huge accomplishment. The breadth, spirit and timeliness of these forums made for much talking and plotting and snacking and drinking afterward, among energized activists well on their way to becoming new friends and cohorts — not mourning, but organizing.
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