Think Women’s March Wasn’t Radical Enough? Do Something About It

| Resist!

Above Photo: ‘The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren’t homogeneous.’ Photograph: Patsy Lynch/Rex/Shutterstock

It might not have been as black, brown or working class as many might have liked. But criticizing it from the sidelines doesn’t help anyone

The United States has just experienced a corporate hijacking. If Trump’s inaugural speech did not alert you to the fact that they intend to come after all of us, then you are not paying attention.

The scale of the attack is as deep as it is wide, and this means that we will need a mass movement to confront it. To organize such a movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated – those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop the arrogant and moralistic chastising of anyone who is not as “woke”.

The women’s marches in Washington DC and around the country were stunning, inspiring and the first of a million steps that will be needed to build the resistance to Trump.

But look around social media, and you can read critiques and even denunciations of the marchers: where were all of these people before? Why are they only getting involved now? Why doesn’t the march have more radical demands? Why did march organizers, who are politically liberal, allow only … liberals to speak?

All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.

Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank God. The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren’t homogeneous – they are, pretty much by definition, politically heterogeneous. And there is not a single radical or revolutionary on Earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas.

Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of existing systems mock, deride or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.

This isn’t leadership, it’s infantile. It’s also a recipe for how to keep a movement tiny and irrelevant. If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed, then you and your select friends should go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump.

Should the marches have been more multiracial and working class? Yes! But you are not a serious organizer if that’s where your answer to the question ends. The issue for the left is how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner and more working class. Simply complaining about it changes nothing.

There will no effective movement against Trump that doesn’t directly confront the issue of racism. It has to be front and center, and it seemed to me that the march organizers took that question seriously and made genuine efforts to shift shortcomings in their original approach.

The organized turnout of unions for the Washington DC demonstration was much smaller than it should have been. But at least some sections of the labor movement did feel the pressure from their own membership to devote greater resources to mobilization in the final weeks, and plenty of union members got themselves to the march as individuals and with rank-and-file members. That’s something for the left to build on in making labor central to the anti-Trump resistance.

The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths.

If the left doesn’t engage with the aim of contending for leadership and influence, we just concede these forces to the Democrats and liberals, who will certainly try to confine the new upsurge of opposition to the political limits they want to define.

The point isn’t to bury our arguments. If we want to win people to more radical politics, we must learn how to make our arguments while operating in political arenas that aren’t just our own. Revolutionary socialists have a long and rich tradition of building united fronts, which seems more real now that 3 million people were in the streets.

We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want. But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.

There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches and much more to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together and stand up to this assault together.

  • jemcgloin

    Yes exactly!

  • Curtis Bell

    In my town Left Wing Purity Destroyed the Peace Movement. Don’t let that happen with our mass movements. Holier than Thou types need to grow up.

  • kevinzeese

    On a national level you have that wrong. What destroyed the peace movement at the peak of Iraq War protest, when we were very close to stopping the funding of the Iraq War, was MoveOn, a Democratic Party political organization. People were in constant protest in the halls of Congress and the Democrats, and some Republicans, were feeling the pressure to stop funding the war. We were close with many Dems sweating the people pressure.

    Then MoveOn endorsed a weak alternative that said — stop war funding except for fighting terrorists, training Iraqis and protecting our national interest. The pressure deflated and the non-stop the funding phony bill passed.

    The second thing that killed the peace movement was Barack Obama. When he was elected the peace movement, for the most part, went to sleep. See:

  • easywriter

    Question everything!

  • DHFabian

    What we saw from media is largely shrugged off as “just a middle class thing.” Out here in the real world, we have our hands full. Consider that the US shut down/shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare aid in the 1990s, and has ignored the appalling consequences ever since. The overall life expectancy of the US poor has fallen below that of every developed nation, and this is brushed aside as a non-issue.

  • DHFabian

    I think you’re confusing the liberal bourgeoisie with the left. The left haven’t had the public/media microphone in decades. They’re a down to Earth bunch who have no interest in political correctness or that familiar “holier than thou” attitude. For them, it’s about our core economic policies — our deregulated capitalism — that has destroyed so many lives.

  • rgaura

    Critique is important, coalition building is important. As a self described radical, I have to respond. The `women´s march´on washington and elsewhere was hijacked by the corporate democrats. I mean, who in their right mind would take Madonna´s advice on anything? The icon of the commodification of women? I have run out of clothing stores to avoid her processed crap. It is not political immaturity to point out that the opposition has bought the DNC/DLC and most liberals. My local march here was a bunch of fat, elder, middle class, white retirees who idolise the Obamas. I lasted 2 days on their Facebook page. Just a level of denial that is incredible. They don´t want a dialog, they are smug in their denial and ignorance. So, I´ll work with them on issues, sign petitions, but no dialog is invited, no critique allowed.
    What is juvenile and unproductive is labelling Trump as what must be opposed, and calling him a racist. Completely alienating and reviling the president for what both parties have been complicit in enacting for decades makes no sense. If I can work with liberals, I can work with racists, I can see that we can all rally around jobs and justice.
    We really should stop using the terms working class and middle class. What we have now is basically one disenfranchised, underemployed class, with a few middle managers, and an uber rich class (and lets stop calling them elite! perhaps predatory would be a more accurate label). Our greatest asset, our human resources, is not being well educated or employed. I grew up middle class, and watched the full court press to destroy it since the 70´s. Among my siblings, those who are `middle class´ economically work for the war industry directly or indirectly. They have had to wear blinders to keep their positions.
    The jejune blaming and shaming of Trump is so unproductive, the media shreik-o-meter so vicious, it is polarising what should be a moment of unity and change into venal squabbling. Trumps inaugural speech was a call for unity that most liberals didn´t even listen to. But they have listened to months of blaming, shaming and vilification. Lets stop howling in fear of what he will do (a disempowering position, and respectfully petition him, make a relationship that is win/win. One can strike, demand, and discuss without immature vilification.