Saturday, January 21, 2017

Eyewitness report: Women's March on Cleveland

My photos from the Women's March on Cleveland can be found here.

Thousands attended. My Facebook live feed videos can be found here and here.
Sadly for view the viewer, I held my phone on the verticle.

Attendees were predominantly Caucasian and middle class. All were united by contempt for the fact that Trump is now president.

Several signs said "Trump Nyet," playing to a Democratic Party conpiracy theory that Putin helped get Trump elected.

There were many Pro-Choice signs. But I counted only two Black Lives Matter signs. No signs in solidarity with other struggles. No labor contingents.

Many women carried "I'm with her" banners or wore Clinton stickers and t-shirts.

There was not a hint of independent working class political action

And nothing to contradict this pertinent article:

‘Women’s March’ aims to promote Democratic Party


Every advance the working class makes is in the streets. Every blow to racism, every gain toward women’s emancipation, every strengthening of the unions has been won through the independent mobilization of working people and our allies in their millions.

The national rally scheduled for Jan. 21 under the name Women’s March on Washington points in the opposite direction. Its aim is to begin now to campaign to reinstall the Democratic Party in Congress and the White House.

That course — looking to the Democrats and electing “pro-choice” capitalist politicians — is what’s paved the road for more than four decades of erosion of the right to choose abortion, which is today at the cutting edge of attacks on the social and economic gains of women.

The Women’s March on Washington was called immediately after Republican Donald Trump won the presidential election and was set for the day after he takes office. The initial call for the rally said it would “demonstrate our disapproval of the new president and his values.”

Election day “was a lot of hope, then an incredible amount of sadness,” Mrinalini Chakraborty, a graduate student in Chicago and the Illinois state coordinator for the march, told the Chicago Tribune. The action was called amid hysteria about Trump in liberal and left circles, and widespread debate about how to “fix” the broken Democratic Party. Defending women’s right to choose abortion is not even mentioned, although a major annual anti-abortion rally will take place in Washington just six days later.

These misleaders who claim to speak for women’s rights have a long record of retreat and refusal to mobilize to defend women’s right to choose abortion in the streets. “Don’t rock the boat,” is their line. Work to “elect friends of women,” and they’ll protect us.

How Roe v. Wade put cap on gains

Ever since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion, the pro-Democratic Party leadership of the National Organization for Women and other feminist groups have sought to channel the fight out of the streets and into the ballot box. They were aided by the character and content of Roe v. Wade, which was based not on a woman’s right to “equal protection of the laws” guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, but on medical criteria and decisions made by pregnant women’s doctors, not by women themselves.

“Opponents of women’s rights have taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s ‘medical’ criteria from the outset,” Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes writes in The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People. “And they’ve made the most of the fact that the 1973 court decision was handed down while a raging debate had not yet been fought out and won by those who insisted that a woman’s decision on this medical procedure falls under the protection of our hard-won constitutional rights.”

This was acknowledged by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime proponent of abortion rights and a member of the Supreme Court. She wrote in 1985 that Roe v. Wade “ventured too far in the change it ordered,” at a time when “abortion law was in a state of change across the nation.”

That trend was not the result of an epiphany by capitalist legislatures and courts. It was the result of a growing movement for women’s equality that was given impetus by the victories won in the streets in the 1950s and ’60s by millions in the working-class-led fight for Black rights. The demand for repeal of anti-abortion laws came to the fore because the ability to control when and if to have children is fundamental to every aspect of a woman’s life.

By cutting short the state-by-state mobilization in the streets needed to conquer abortion as a woman’s right, Roe v. Wade in fact put a ceiling on these gains. Almost from day one access to the procedure came under attack, subject to growing restrictions that especially come down on working-class women and those living outside major cities.

The Jan. 21 march is even more an action to boost the Democratic Party and point to the ballot box as the road forward than the occasional one-off large rallies for women’s rights called by NOW and other groups.

Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton underscored this message when she spoke at a 2004 March for Women’s Lives, called to oppose the re-election of George W. Bush. “We didn’t have to march for 12 long years because we had a government that respected the rights of women,” she said, referring to the 1993-2001 presidency of Bill Clinton.

She didn’t mention, of course, that abortion rights had suffered ongoing restrictions while women “didn’t have to march” during the Clinton years. And she said nothing about the signature accomplishment of her husband’s administration — eliminating Aid to Families with Dependent Children, with devastating effects for millions of working-class women. Like Roe v. Wade, it put a ceiling on key gains won by the working class in struggle, which have been further whittled away by the capitalist rulers over the last two decades.

Attacks on women can be countered

There’s an important example of a different course that workers and young people looking to defend women’s rights today can learn from.

Emboldened by the bipartisan attacks on the right to choose abortion, Operation Rescue launched a national campaign in the early 1990s to physically shut down abortion clinics. They mobilized thousands of rightist cadres to lay siege to the three clinics in Wichita, Kansas, in the summer of 1991. Leaders of the main women’s rights organization argued against a countermobilization, saying the cops and courts should be allowed to “do their job.” The result was that the rightists succeeded in shutting the clinics for weeks.

Many defenders of women’s rights drew the lessons from this defeat. In April 1992, when Operation Rescue tried to pull off a siege of clinics in Buffalo, New York, they were met by some 1,500 defenders who turned out daily at 5 a.m. to keep the clinics open. By the end of the second week, most of Operation Rescue’s troops had left town, demoralized. Defenders of abortion rights went on to confront Operation Rescue in Houston and other cities and successfully beat them back.

This is the direction we need to look today — not the same dead-end of relying on the same capitalist parties who’ve overseen the assault on workers’ rights and living standards for decades.

Supporters of the SWP will attend the Jan. 21 action, not to build it, but to meet and debate with those there an alternative, independent working-class road forward. 


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