Reports from mass women’s marches against Trump.
Below we post the editorial from this week’s issue of the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in England & Wales) following the mass anti-Trump demonstrations last weekend, followed by reports from some of the mass protests in the US by Socialist Alternative reporters and solidarity protests in England & Wales.
The huge turnouts to the ‘women’s marches’ around the world on 21 January shocked even the organisers. From Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, from Oslo to Antarctica, millions poured onto the streets to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.
Potentially these demonstrations could mark the beginning of an important new phase in the fightback by young, working and middle class people against the brutalities of capitalism, its political representatives and the divisions they attempt to sow.
The Women’s March on Washington was originally called by feminist groups to express fury at Trump’s outrageous comments on women and the threat his administration poses to their rights.
But it, and the hundreds of sister marches it inspired, was taken up by many other groups wanting to give a clear signal from day one of the Trump presidency that his reactionary regime will face mass opposition every step of the way.
This snowballed into the biggest coordinated international protests since those against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
It is now vital and urgent that this is used as a launchpad to build a sustained, democratic, international movement with a strategy to win and a vision of a socialist alternative. We must ensure that 21 January 2017 goes down in the history books as the turning of the tide, rather than a one-off, letting off steam.
Build a mass movement against Trumpism, austerity and capitalism
Estimates suggest up to five million protested across the world (see pages 8-9 for more reports and photos). It is important that so many felt such a strong sense of international solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the US as to protest in their thousands in places that will not all be in the frontline of the direct impact from the Trump presidency. This is partly because of the centrality of the US to world politics generally, and an understanding that instability and reaction there will have a global impact.
But it is also because in reality people were not just protesting against Trump, but against all the many ‘Trumps’ local to them, and against the ‘Trumpist’ policies carried out by capitalist governments around the world. Protesters railed against all forms of sexism, racism and inequality. Some were concerned about Trump’s plans for the environment; others about war and xenophobia. The marches acted as a funnel for much of the discontent people are feeling – brought to a head by fear and anger at what Trump’s election could mean.
Many will have been angered by Theresa May’s comments when asked if she would challenge Trump over his attitude towards women when they meet. She replied that the best thing she could do in that regard was to be there, as a female prime minister. Instead, she said, she would concentrate on ‘pressing global issues’ such as Nato and Syria.
May, regardless of her gender, does not represent the majority of women. It is clear that her priorities in those discussions will be ensuring the security of the capitalist system over the rights and safety of, for example, the 2.4 million women who have been forced to flee Syria. Many of them have been locked out and abused by western governments like hers who are aggravating the situation in the Middle East. And May has supported policies that have led to hundreds of thousands of women in Britain losing their jobs since the Tories came to power. It is expected that by 2020 women will have shouldered 85% of the changes to taxes and benefits since 2010.
A significant section of the marchers recognised facts like these and that they show the need to stay active and escalate the movements in each country, as well as to link different struggles together. Many of those who took part were on their first demonstration – but were clear that it wouldn’t be their last. In Britain, a crucial part of showing solidarity with those in the US fighting Trump’s administration is to fight back against austerity, oppression and capitalism here.
One of the immediate tasks in this is to build for the biggest possible demonstration in defence of the NHS on 4 March (see back page for full details). The NHS is clearly a major target for Tory cuts and privatisations – and a potential major mobilising issue for wide layers of workers. For many, the brutal assault on such an essential public service summarises the callousness, cruelty and class hatred of this government.
In her response to Trump’s inauguration speech, Kshama Sawant, Seattle city councillor and member of Socialist Alternative (cothinkers of the Socialist Party in the US) called for further days of action on International Women’s Day on 8 March and International Workers’ Day on 1 May, concentrating on women’s rights and immigrant rights respectively. We should aim to hold solidarity events for these here, raising the issues affecting these layers in Britain too.
Through all of these individual mobilisations, we must unite the biggest force possible to fight the right. The demonstrations showed a huge openness to this; a desire to turn numbers into real power to defeat Trump, his international counterparts and their ideas. Discussion and debate on the way to build this is vital.
As a starting point, the movement must recognise that it is the capitalist establishment that has allowed the rise of Trumpism. Some people have, by the brutal conditions they face – unemployment, run-down public services and sneering from politicians – been pushed towards the false solutions of the right. A movement to defeat it must be intolerant of that capitalist establishment. It must pursue policies that can reach out to those alienated workers and young people.
In the US, this means recognising that the Democratic Party, is inherently tied to the Wall Street establishment. This is why Hillary Clinton could not defeat Trump. The popularity of left winger Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the Democratic primaries showed the type of radical policies that could have done. It was a mistake that Sanders dropped out and backed Clinton once the Democratic machine had successfully fixed the race against him.
Following the huge campaign in support of Sanders, and now the burgeoning movement against Trump, the urgent task in the US is to build a new party of the 99%. Such a party, putting forward a bold, pro-working class, socialist programme, could seize the opportunities that exist and grow unprecedentedly quickly. The same is necessary all over the world – to fight for a political voice for the working class and developing radical movements. In Britain, this includes striving for victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity stand over the right-wing Blairites in the Labour Party who will stop at nothing to crush it.
The fight for a new party in the US will only become more important as Trump reneges on his promises and lets down those who were wrongly convinced that he represented an anti-establishment vote. Crisis-ridden world capitalism is not going to realise all his pledges of jobs, schools and infrastructure. Clearly, right-wing billionaire Trump will not carry out the socialist policies that could. A new mass workers’ party which vocalised this could win many of those who voted Trump in November. It could also – in contrast to the ‘same-old, same-old’ establishment Democrats – inspire the 42% who abstained in this election to turn out in future.
Another feature of the demonstrations was the number of people explicitly searching for a socialist alternative. Kshama Sawant said in her Trump inauguration response: “In these trying times, I am given great hope by the new-found spirit of rebellion among young people. Most important is the growing support for socialism, with thousands joining socialist organisations across the country. The reason why is no mystery: capitalism is a failing system. Donald Trump is a particularly repulsive expression of the predatory nature of the capitalist system itself.
“We found out this week that eight people, just eight people, now own more wealth than half the world’s population. We also found out that global temperatures, for the third year in a row, have broken all previous records – that climate disaster continues to rapidly advance. We need a radically different society. We need socialism. Socialism means a society run by and for working people, rather than the billionaire class. A society where the major corporations are taken into public ownership so we can democratically plan how to use society’s resources to meet human need, rather than private profit.”
A real opportunity now exists to use the momentum evident on the recent demonstrations to build a strong, international socialist movement capable of bringing such ideas to fruition. The Socialist Party and its sister parties in the Committee for a Workers’ International will be at the forefront of these struggles.
Mass protests across the USA
These were the largest simultaneous protests ever recorded in US history with millions taking to the streets over two days in a show of defiance against the inauguration of billionaire bigot Donald Trump. The Washington march alone on 21 January numbered up to one million, with 750,000 in Los Angeles, 500,000 in New York City, and 250,000 in Chicago… the list goes on!
But it’s clear from the following reports of Socialist Alternative members (US cothinkers of the Socialist Party) that there is also a thirst for ideas and organisation to fight back against Trump and the Republicans’ attacks on the rights of women, minorities, trade unionists, migrant workers, etc.
Thousands flood Chicago streets
Chicago responded with an incredible weekend of resistance. “Resist Trump” demonstrations were held on 20 January (J20) and the following day the Chicago Women’s March was one of world’s largest with over 250,000 people attending!
The women’s march became so large that no actual march was possible. Instead, demonstrators took over Chicago’s downtown loop for hours in a tremendous display of solidarity and shut down business-as-usual with a festival-like mass gathering.
Beginning just after the election, Socialist Alternative Chicago prepared for mass actions on Inauguration Day.
The failure of Democratic Party corporate politics in the election cost working people dearly and it became even clearer that it would take a genuine grassroots and radical opposition to fight the right.
For several weeks, Socialist Alternative worked with a strong coalition of groups under the banner of the Movement for the 99% to organise a #J20 rally and march.
The organising group’s commitment to politics independent of the two party system was vindicated when the J20 rally and march was effectively hijacked and sabotaged by deceitful representatives of the Chicago Democratic Party machine.
Pushing aside socialist activists using private security, counter-organisers featured former mayoral candidate and Cook County board member Chuy Garcia.
Garcia, despite presenting himself as a “Berniecrat,” refused to take up any of the concrete initiatives supported by Bernie Sanders during his presidential candidate bid. Instead he steered the passage of a sales tax increase on Chicago’s working class and poor just after his race.
In spite of the sabotage, thousands of Chicagoans marched on Trump Tower, denouncing Trump’s agenda of racism and sexism. Marchers expressed disgust not only towards Trump, but toward the establishment: at one point demonstrators surrounded a police car, chanting “16 shots and a cover-up!”, calling out Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel for his criminal concealment of the police execution of Laquan McDonald.
Our movement will need to build on these tremendous protests with powerful ongoing struggles and mass civil disobedience, while developing strong demands and independent democratic structures.
Many attendees were eager to discuss socialism and our strategy to defeat Trump, and Socialist Alternative passed out over 2,000 flyers for a mass meeting about the way forward for our movement.
Theresa Powers and Nick Wozniak
The demonstrations kicked off on J20, including a walkout of 150 striking Northeastern University dining hall workers from Unite Here Local 26, in a show of working class resistance to Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-worker and pro-billionaire agenda.
Over 4,000 people gathered for a rally later that evening, chanting loudly about women’s and immigrant rights and healthcare, and showing the determination of the movement to unite and defend those who are facing Trump’s most immediate attacks.
Socialist Alternative organised the major evening rally with several co-sponsors and had members talking to people about political strategy for the movement and the need for a new mass political party independent of corporate cash and interests.
The next day the women’s march brought 125,000 people together at Boston Common for what was perhaps the biggest demonstration in the city’s history! Socialist Alternative was at it again distributing leaflets on our strategy for fighting Trump’s sexist agenda.
We talked with people about how sexism is built into the very essence of the capitalist system with the 1%’s constant efforts to reduce social spending and increase profits.
Boston Socialist Alternative is bigger and more ready than ever to build the resistance against Trump and the socialist movement!
New York City
There were three days of protests in New York City. 25,000 turned out to a rally organised by Michael Moore on Thursday night (19 January), 1,500 turned out to a protest Socialist Alternative initiated (J20) – which marched to the Trump building at 40 Wall Street to highlight Trump’s ties to the big banks – and up to 500,000 for Saturday’s March for Women.
Despite the fact that most colleges in New York were still on winter break, Socialist Students managed a small walkout from two schools on inauguration day, including a high school in Manhattan and winter quarter students from Borough of Manhattan College.
2,000 students were crammed into Sproul Plaza at the UC Berkeley walkout rally on J20. As one after another speaker condemned Trumps’ bigoted tide, the crowd got distracted by an invading, chanting army of youth. Several hundred Berkeley High School students had arrived and the college students’ roar of approval circled the rally.
The Oakland Women’s March on J21 was a huge, popular middle finger to all those that want to turn the clock back further against women’s equality.
100,000 women, men and kids, formed a gigantic sea of defiant picket signs. The Socialist Alternative truck got huge approval for demands for free healthcare, unions, unity of the 99% and for the right to choose.
Marchers came up to our truck to take selfies in front of our Join the Socialists banner as the SA truck pumped out its dance music along the march.
England & Wales solidarity protests
On 21 January, a sea of people – over 100,000 strong – most of them women, descended on the US embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest against America’s newly sworn in sexist, racist, billionaire president.
The protest was colourful, lively and determined, certainly not pessimistic. There was an eagerness to discuss ideas. Socialist Party members taking part in the protest had hundreds of conversations about how we can support our brothers and sisters in the States and work to build a wall of resistance to Trump and his reactionary policies.
Crowds cheered speeches from the Socialist Party’s open mic which laid the blame for Trump’s victory not with ordinary Americans, but with complacent, big business-backed politicians whose neoliberal policies have left millions of Americans struggling to get by.
Hillary Clinton falls into this category. After all, it was her failure to offer anything other than a continuation of the rotten status quo which allowed Trump the space to cynically pose as ‘anti-establishment’, despite being a paid-up member of the billionaire class.
It was disappointing, therefore, that the official platform at the end of the march included politicians cut from the same cloth as Clinton. Yvette Cooper, whose failed bid for leadership of the Labour Party was an indication of the popularity of those ideas here in Britain, was one of the keynote speakers.
Copies of the Socialist were snapped up. Marchers were keen to read reports written by Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US) about the movement in America as well as the lessons that can be drawn for the fight against racism, sexism and austerity closer to home.
Earlier in the day Socialist Students at Warwick University initiated a protest as part of joint action between Socialist Students in the UK and USA, along with the Sindicato de Estudiantes (Students Union) in Spain and CEDEP (Committee for the Defence of Public Education) in Mexico.
Speakers from Unison, NUT, Coventry TUC, the Socialist Party and Momentum all spoke in support of the growing global movement against Trump.
We need to fight not only Trump but the system that created him. That requires socialist policies to challenge the rule of capitalism – a system where eight people own as much wealth as half the world’s population.
Coventry Socialist Party members
Around 1,500 people joined a march in Shipley, West Yorkshire. The march was called by Shipley’s ‘Feminist Zealots’ a reference to a derogatory comment made by local MP and Trump supporter, Philip Davies.
While organisers said the demo wasn’t about the Tory MP, a number of protesters brought placards aimed at him, as well as at Trump. Many expressed their anger at the way the comments of individuals like Davies and Trump can legitimise sexist behaviour.
Socialist Party members from Bradford brought along a ‘Dump Trump’ banner. We ran out of the several hundred leaflets we had printed, and also sold many copies of the Socialist.
“Dump Trump – racist Trump! Dump Trump – sexist Trump!” was chanted by more than 50 people gathered in the freezing cold at the Clock Tower in Leicester on 20 January.
The link between fighting sexism and capitalism was made by one protester: “Trump’s success was a failure of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton openly represented Wall Street and big business rather than the interests of ordinary women. The movement around Bernie Sanders shows the mood for a socialist alternative to the current corrupt system.”
Around 1,500 people marched through Leeds city centre. It was comprised largely of women but also had support from a diverse mixture of Leeds residents and others from around Yorkshire.
The protest began with a large rally which called for people to resist his presidency.
Amy Cousens, who spoke on behalf of the Socialist Party, argued that the only way to stop Trump’s pro-billionaire agenda and to defend women and immigrant communities, is to organise and build a new party of working and middle class people in the US, armed with a socialist programme.
Around 200 energised and angry women, men and children gathered at the Bargate in Southampton.
Maggie Fricker, from Southampton Socialist party, said in her speech: “Women’s reproductive rights in particular are being targeted by the reactionary right. Trump has promised to nominate a Supreme Court judge who has plans to destroy abortion rights in the US.
And around the world foreign aid will be withdrawn from any organisations who give women pregnancy advice – which will have a catastrophic effect on women’s health.
This is only the start of mass resistance. Last year saw huge protests around the world to defend and extend abortion rights.
Women, workers, the poor and downtrodden, immigrants, refugees – we need to stand together, to organise, to protest, take strike action, to occupy… to demand and extend our rights.”rites: “The Hungarian masses, who rose against the unspeakable Stalinist terror, wrote a magnificent page in the history of the working class internationally”.