Area campaign reaches out to working class
In one of the biggest demonstrations in Boston since the Iraq war began, three to five thousand protesters arrived at Boston Common, last Saturday, determined to build a movement to stop the war and bring the troops home now.
Four years and four days after the beginning of the war in Iraq, workers and youth from the Boston area showed their outrage at the horror, death and destruction in Iraq. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on war, while Boston’s inner city communities saw unemployment rise and the murder rate skyrocket. In nearby New Bedford, an inhumane sweatshop raided federal by troops, two weeks ago, saw workers jump into the icy Atlantic Ocean to escape. A bus load of protesters from New Bedford came to the rally in Boston, for the first time in years.
This rally signaled a resurgence of the local anti-war movement. Last autumn, though, it looked as if a local demonstration may not happen in Boston to protest against four years of slaughter and budget cuts. While the two main national anti-war coalitions were fighting with each other over rally dates and locations, Boston Socialist Alternative (CWI) put forward the need for a local demonstration. In such a vast country like the US, local demonstrations are necessary to bring out working class opposition to the war. Many other activists were convinced by our arguments, and eventually, the local representative groups of the two main national coalitions endorsed the Boston local action.
While the numbers of people at the demonstrations in New York and Washington DC were significantly down from previous demonstrations, the Boston rally was the biggest since 2004. The key factor in this is the presence in Boston of a coalition (Stop the Wars) that is not tied to either ANSWER/Troops Out or United for Peace and Justice, the two main national groups. These groups are either tightly controlled and without democracy (ANSWER) or they are paralyzed by support for the Democratic Party (UFPJ).
The Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition, which Socialist Alternative helped to found and has continued to play a key role in, is both independent of the Democrats and has a democratic decision-making process. This helps the local coalition to reach new activists. The Boston demonstration was also built in a different way than many of the other East Coast demonstrations. Socialist Alternative played a central role working for the demonstration, through advertising with stickers, leafleting, postering and contacting mass organizations, not just small anti-war groups. For instance, one union local (SEIU 1199) packed a bus full of its members for the rally. In comparison, the two main national anti-war coalitions (especially UFPJ), often stick to ‘web activism’ and contacting friendly but small anti-war groups.
The Boston rally was spirited and inspired. It lasted from morning until night, with musical acts, a march, and, of course, political speeches. Rather than have dozens of speakers for only a couple minutes each, there were only six speakers in Boston, each given ten minutes.
End the worldwide war on working people
One speaker was the country’s most prominent anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan. She spent most of her time bashing the Democratic Party leadership for not stopping the war. She called for Congress to cut war funding, which was a popular demand at the demonstration. Another speaker was the famous local left-wing historian, Howard Zinn, who, at over 80 years old, was still full of anger and fury at the war. He got a rousing ovation.
Socialist Alternative also had one of the six speakers at the rally. Eljeer Hawkins, from New York, addressed the thousands congregated at the Common. He spoke about another connected war: the worldwide war on working people. Eljeer put forward the need to break from the Democrats and the need for working class unity, from Iraq to the US. He put forward the need for a new party for working people and he ended his speech with the Dr. Martin Luther King quote, “America must move towards a democratic socialism.”
After the speeches, we marched. One section of the march was decidedly more lively and energetic than the rest of the march combined. A few hundred people were making more noise than the other thousands. Socialist Alternative led this contingent of the march with three bullhorns and two red banners. Many who marched with us asked to get more information about our group mainly because of our lively chanting and energetic approach.
We chanted slogans like: “What the hell is Congress for? Cut the funding, stop the war!” and “Hey Bush! We know you! Daddy killed for oil, too! Hey Hillary, we know you! Your husband bombed Iraqis, too!”
During the rally, we sold over 300 copies of our newspaper, ‘Justice’. We handed out over one thousand copies of our local newsletter, ‘Boston Organizer’. Over one-hundred people signed up to get more information about Socialist Alternative.
Socialist Alternative played a big role at every stage of this protest. Last autumn, we convinced local activists of the need for a protest in March. We played a central role in building for the rally. At the rally, we raised the banner of socialism and the CWI, and we will recruit people to the ideas of Marxism through our participation.