Keep it broad, keep it radical – building a movement to beat Trump

Sarah Levy, a member of the International Socialist Organization in the US, argues we need a broad movement to beat Trump.

Photo: Steve Eason
Photo: Steve Eason

Those millions of people who took to the streets on Saturday – many chanting “We won’t go away! Welcome to your first day!” –  they’re on our side.

More importantly we’re going to need them, and, frankly, even more than just them if we want to stop Trump from whatever racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-LGBT, anti-disabled, shit he tries to push through. And we’re going to need them if we’re going to fight for and win all of the basic social reforms we deserve: a living wage (not to mention a universal wage for those who can’t work??); healthcare for all; clean water, air, and healthy food; great schools with multicultural and relevant curricula; disarming (disbanding?) the police, opening the borders and ending wars abroad; etc.

Yes, not all of the people who marched on Saturday are already as “woke” as you, but if we are real revolutionaries we believe that the vast majority of these people can be won to more radical and even revolutionary ideas, especially as circumstances get more and more dire each day.

The question has to be, how do people’s ideas change?

That woman who hugged and thanked the cop on Saturday, not because she wanted to thank him for killing a black kid, but because she believed that he was helping to protect the march, maybe even that he was “on our side” and supported women’s rights, maybe even that this “must mean” that he too was against Trump.  Remember that she was demonstrating, maybe even for the first time in her life, against what she saw as an evil that must be stopped.

Is she really our enemy?

That woman who saw the need to take a stand (even in the pouring rain and cold if she was in Portland), and join others to resist a presidency and policies that must be resisted. She wants change and she is willing to act toward that change. Maybe she hasn’t thought about the question of whose side the police are on. Maybe she wasn’t at Occupy when so many people across this country simultaneously came to the same conclusions about the police as the myth of “serve and protect” was brutally beaten down with rubber bullets and tear gas against thousands of peaceful protesters.

And she was excited about and inspired by the protest yesterday.

Is the way to bring her out again to poo-poo the protest as “liberal” or “bourgeois” (we actually believe that it was the 1% who was out protesting yesterday? Remember: bourgeois is not synonymous with white), and to write her off as racist/backward/conservative?

Of course not.

If we are serious about fighting Trump (and actually winning) we should be thrilled that these people came out yesterday. Yes we should find the people who are close to us and try to get them to join our organisations, but we should also aim to talk, debate and ultimately mobilise again and again with the others whose ideas right now might be further away from ours.  Getting them to educational or organisation meetings, and to maybe even help them come to the conclusion that the cops are not on our side and are not going to help us fight Trump or win liberation (that they are actually a major force that both defends and brutally hammers through the racist status quo in this country and they need to be abolished).

People’s ideas can change through struggle. The people who could be won back into the Democratic Party could also possibly be brought into revolutionary politics, but only if the revolutionaries are there to engage with them and their ideas.

Of course we want future marches to be more diverse, and to take up each oppressed group that is under attack, but the way to get there is not to disengage because the march or the marchers do not have “perfect” politics; it is to engage, raise questions, and argue what we think is needed to win.

If not every struggle against each separate (though intersecting) oppression is mentioned the first time, this doesn’t mean we should write off the entire platform (or worse, assume those struggling to end one form of oppression are simultaneously down with other oppressions). Rather, (and again, especially in this moment, this new context of Trump and a majority of the population’s hatred and fear of Trump) we should assume good intention, and raise what we think was missed, what struggles we think need to be taken up in order to bring in more people and help our side become stronger and less able to be divided.

I want the movement that stops the attacks on Roe v. Wade to include not only women and non-binary folks, but also men. I want the fight against police brutality to include not only Black people, but whites as well as other races. And I want the struggle to end the deportation of immigrants in this country to not only include undocumented immigrants, but everyone else. This is what solidarity means. As Keeanga-Yamatta Taylor put it, that “even if you don’t experience a particular oppression it doesn’t matter because you understand that as ordinary people our fates are tied together.  That one group’s liberation is dependent on the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited.” It’s acting from the recognition that you have been pitted against someone who is not your enemy by someone who is.

This liberation will not come if we try to exclude people who want to fight but might not yet have our same revolutionary analysis. That’s just a good way for our side to get smaller and smaller and continue to lose.

I want to be part of a revolution of millions of people who can envision, stand up for, and organise a revolution. Today, especially when so many people are new to protesting, they are willing to talk, listen, and think about new ideas. They might even be up to coming to a meeting to talk and learn more. We should see this as a beautiful and critical development. We can’t dismiss people because they aren’t as “woke” as we are. That might be a way to feel good about your own political development, but frankly it’s not a way to actually win.



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