On Saturday August 19, one week after the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, 40,000 people marched and rallied against an alt-right “free speech” protest in the Boston Common. Boston has demonstrated to the rest of the country a crucial lesson: A mass movement, with maximum participation and unity can defeat racism and the far right. The far-right Boston “Free Speech Rally” had been in the works for over two months, and 25 people showed up. The anti-racist counter demonstration was announced less than a week prior and, according to Boston Police, drew over 40,000 people, a ratio of 1600 to 1.
To defeat the far right, we need the broadest possible participation in the movement. This means that labor unions, key progressive organizations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and Planned Parenthood, and leaders such as Bernie Sanders need to act as mobilizers. Several labor unions had contingents in the Boston march, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Boston Teachers Union, and SEIU 509, which represents a big step forward for the movement. More unions, such as SEIU 1199 and Unite Here Local 26, put out statements of support for the demonstration. The march was organized and led by members of Black Lives Matter Cambridge.
A few days before the march, Boston Socialist Alternative proposed to the International Socialist Organization that we form a Socialist Contingent for the march. They agreed, and Democratic Socialists of America, Industrial Workers of the World, and the Socialist Party USA ended up joining as well. The Socialist Contingent reached over 1,000 people during the march, showing the growing support for socialist ideas in the U.S.
Anger Against Nazis and Trump
The loudest chants were “Hey hey, ho ho, Nazi scum have got to go,” “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away,” and “Alt-right, you can’t hide, you support genocide,” and anything else Trump related. It was clear that 40,000 Bostonians didn’t just come out to stand against the 25 neo-nazis in the Boston Common Bandstand, but also against Trump, the racist billionaire who is helping to empower the alt-right.
Immediately after the march reached the Common, members of Socialist Alternative from Boston and Worcester split up and spread out to talk to people about the need to carry this momentum into building an ongoing movement. We talked with people about how capitalism needs racism to survive in order to keep the working class divided, and that to challenge racism most effectively we need to build a movement against racism and capitalism. The threat of racism, as well as coming from white supremacists, is institutionalized in Boston by cuts to public education and social services in the face of tax cuts and handouts to giant corporations like GE. The majority of housing being built are luxury condos that are out of reach for regular working people, especially people of color who are disproportionately low-wage earners.
We handed out 5,000 flyers for a public meeting on Tuesday, August 22, called “Socialism and the Struggle Against Racism and the Far Right.” We sold over 100 copies of our Socialist Alternative newspaper and raised over $1,000 in donations by selling buttons and posters!
Can we rely on the politicians?
Boston Mayor Walsh initially came out strongly against the white supremacists coming to Boston and in support of the counter demonstration. But following a press conference the day before, every major news outlet in Boston carried headlines like: “Walsh: Stay Away From the Common Saturday.” Despite Walsh’s backtracking, tens of thousands of people showed up to challenge the far right. And from the alt-right’s pathetic turnout (3 out of their 6 scheduled speakers even cancelled because of the counter demonstration) we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the strength and power of our movement that will beat back the far right. If politicians and progressive organizations are serious about this task they will work to build the movement, not back away from it.
Boston has shown the way forward for the rest of the country in how to mobilize against the threat of the far right, and points to what type of movement will be necessary to drive Trump out. Socialist Alternative will continue to do everything in our power to build this movement, while also talking about the need to make the connection between racism and the profit-over-everything system of capitalism.
As the revolutionary Black Panther Fred Hampton said, “We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism.” Join Socialist Alternative and help us do just that!