On Sunday, between 5,000 and 10,000 people marched for a variety of causes. Some were there for a woman's right to choose, some were there to protest police brutality and some were there to protest corporate greed and power.
The ISO's focus was police brutality and fighting racism, in light of the recent beating of Thomas Jones by the notoriously racist Philadelphia Police Deparment. We brought out about 200 comrades and 100 contacts. Some of our slogans were: "Hey Bush! We know you! Your father was a killer too!", "Corporate Greed? We say no! Bush and Cheney got to go!", "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Bush and Cheney go away!" and "Bush - just face it, the GOP is racist!" Some of our placards read "People not profit: Stop the Republocrats' War on the Poor", "Stop Police Terror" and "Stop Governor Death Before He Strikes Again!".
The march was not very long. In fact, it was far too short. We marched into a park area, where there were booths for vendors set up and a speakers' platform. Once the march ended, it seemed more like festival rather than a political event.
My comrades and I settled down on the park's lawn and ate lunch. Afterwards, we walked around selling the Socialist Worker newspaper as well as the International Socialist Review. By the end of the march, we had sold about 800 papers and 200 ISRs. The cover story of the ISR was "the Price of Lesser Evilism" which was about the Clinton-Gore years, but also contained an article about Ralph Nader and Marxists and Elections.
March for Economic Human Rights
On Monday, roughly 4,000 marched from City Hall all the way to the First Union Center where the convention was being held to protest poverty. That was about 4 times as the number expected.
When I arrived with my comrades Dave and Chris at City Hall, the place was jam packed with protestors and spectators. Traffic was severly backed up, there were at least 3 or 4 news helicopters circling overhead and there were cops everywhere. 10,000 cops were deployed as well.
This march was called by a local militant welfare rights group, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, and they did not have a permit. But the cops let us march anyway on the condition that we march single file. So off we went, 1 by 1.
The ISO contingent had about 20 to 30 comrades. We had a lot of chants: "Hey hey, ho ho, poverty has got to go!", "What's outrageous? Poverty wages! What's disgusting? Union busting!", "What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? NOW!", "They say death row, we say HELL NO!", "They say cutback, we say FIGHT BACK", "Gay straight, black white, same struggle, same fight!" and many more. We sang the old IWW song "Solidarity Forever" as well as "We Shall Not Be Moved".
As we marched along, our chants would change. When we marched in front of a construction site, we chanted "The workers, united will never be defeated!" and "What's disgusting? Union busting! What's outrageous? Poverty wages!" and some of the construction workers smiled, tapped their feet or showed solidarity in any way they could. When we marched through predominantly black neightborhoods, we did our multi-racial chants, and I saw one woman who was trying to cross the street pumping her fist in the air. As we marched by a health care center, where many doctors and nurses came out to watch, we sang "We Shall Not be Moved" but with the line "Health care for all" replacing the first line. I heard some of them saying "That's right", nodding their heads and smiling.
Needless to say, many people in Philadelphia sympathized with the protestors and their causes.
Direct Action: August 1st and After
Although I was not at the direct action on Monday, I could still get a picture of what was going on from other members of the ISO, the Socialist Worker, the mainstream press and the Independent Media Center (whose role in covering the protest has been overstated at best).
The coordinating for the direct action was decentralized; not because our forces were disorganized and ad hoc, but because our forces decided to be so in principle. Apparently, the ideas of anarchism were the dominant ones in the organizing meetings for the direct action. The problem with decentralization (especially a principled decentralization) is that our forces were scattered and thus much more easily defeated in practice, plus no one knew what the hell was going on, where, or why. People would get arrested at intersections and no bystander would have any idea why.
There were only a few thousand participating in the direct action to begin with. It should've been clear that we did not have nearly enough people to shutdown the Convention or the streets of Philadelphia. We should've coordinated and centralized ourselves in order to make the most of what we had both politically and organizationally. It's better to halt one delegates' bus with over a thousand people than try to stop every bus with 20 or 30 people.
One trend I noticed in the direct action was the willingness to go head-to-head with the cops, as a matter of principle. This is just plain stupid. The cops' strength is in the streets; and you aren't going to "smash the state" or "spark an uprising" because you're throwing bottles at or hitting the police. I saw a video on the news where some kid sprayed a cop with some paint(?), and the blinded cop got out of his car, started hitting people randomly. Another kid started to beat him up to get him off the innocent people and the cop pulled his revolver out!! Thankfully, some other officer told him to put his gun away, but this is no way to build a movement. This is no way to win sympathy among the masses watching their tvs. Also, I saw fotage of young 'uns like myself turning over garbage cans and newspaper boxes in an effort to "challenge the state and its power" or whatever.
The only thing that petty vandalism and this ultra-leftist garbage will ever do is give a pretext to the cops/state to increase their brutality and political repression!
The acts of heroic minority lead to the conclusion that "only we, the enlightened heroes can change the system and smash the state. We shall do this by propaganda of the deed (meaning terrorism, or some other such nonsense)". As a socialist, I believe that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself, not some heroic minority, enlightened bureaucrat or "realistic" politician. That's why as socialists, we don't say "go out and punch cops!" because that will just make it easier for the state to rid itself of people like us and it will turn the masses from being active participants into being quiet spectators waiting for salvation from the "enlightened" few.
We need to broaden the movement, particularly among working class people. Monday's march had outright class politics, and that's why I think there was much more open sympathy with the demonstrators than on Sunday's protest. Demands like universal health care, a living wage, etc are going to draw more and more working class people into the movement, into political activity, and into socialist politics.
One of the biggest faults of the Sunday demo was the lack of black/latino demonstrators. Much of this was due to a remark made by a Pennsylvania National Organization for Women (NOW) representative, in which she spoke against having Al Sharpton speak out against police brutality (i.e. Thomas Jones) on the grounds that "we already have enough black speakers". A black activist stormed out of the Unity 2000 Steering Committee meeting, and emailed the Radical Black Congress warning that black people shouldn't have anything to do with this, that it was a lily white event, etc.
But going deeper than racist, snide remarks by middle-class feminists, the politics of the movement have a middle class, sympathy-for-the-poor character. This is not to say that many are not being won to socialist politics by their involvement in the movement, or that working class people aren't in any way involved with this struggle. However, this is precisely why the movement must take up demands in solidarity with the working class. Why? Because the working class, particularly the American working class, is literally a sleeping dragon, whose mighty wrath we have not seen since the 1930s when class struggle scorched the ruling class and made them tremble with fear at their own gravediggers.
The working class' acquiesence is central to the function of the entire capitalist system, from the WTO to the IMF, from the White House to the Police Stations. If the working class begins to fight for its own interests (if under the banner of socialism, all the better), the dynamics of the movement will change. Not only will we see much larger street demos (most people in the U.S. work for someone else for a living), we'll see sympathy strikes, general strikes, and hopefully workers' councils and a real revolution, a reorganization of the system at a fundamental level.
And that's what its really going to take to get rid of all the exploitation and oppression that this system breeds.
Pics I took
All pics were taken by me except the first one, the first thinker pic, and the "This is What Democracy Looks like".