Demonstrate Globally, Organize Locally

It was a definite “up” to be on the streets of Manhattan yesterday with 100,000 or so sisters and brothers marching for peace, justice and a new world, knowing that, as it turned out, upwards of 2 million of us were demonstrating together around the U.S. and the world. Our movement needs days like March 20th, 2004.

And we will need an even bigger and more powerful “World Says No to Bush” international day of action on August 29th, the day before the opening of the Republican Convention in New York City. Manhattan must experience another day like February 15th, 2003, many hundreds of thousands of us descending upon midtown to say loudly and clearly that the Bushites must go.

But mobilizing for August 29th is not the most important work that we need to be doing for the next five months. Much more important is what we do over the next seven and a half months on the ground–in neighborhoods, door-to-door, on street corners, in parks, playgrounds, supermarkets and anywhere else where we can reach our fellow citizens.

It is urgent that the peace movement, and the progressive movement generally, focus its energies and resources on the building, or building up, of independent, neighborhood-based organizations that utilize various tactics to reach out to, talk to and interact with the U.S. American people. Our
objective: the mobilization on November 2, 2004 of the largest possible vote in support of peace, justice and defense of our threatened global ecosystem.

It is urgent that we recognize the critical nature of this work, both short-term and long-term.

Short-term, think about the potential impact if just 100,000 of the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated yesterday spent an average of two hours every two weeks interacting in an organized way with grassroots people, distributing popularly written literature about the need for political housecleaning this November. Over the course of a couple of months 10 million or more people would be reached. Some of these will be unregistered voters that we would register as we interact with them with our progressive message. Some will be people “on the fence” about what to do who we would help to motivate to vote for progressive candidates come November. Others will be people leaning towards voting for Bush whom we might influence, sowing doubt in their minds and increasing the chances that they would either vote for someone else or not vote at all.

Long-term, the building and strengthening of a national network of broadly-based and activist neighborhood groups, many of them local groups which already exist, would put us in position for the work which will be necessary no matter what happens on November 2. If we and the Democrats are successful in removing the Bushites from power, we need to move expeditiously to demonstrate massively to Kerry that progressives, whether in or outside of the Democratic Party, will not accept another Bill Clinton-like, Republican-light agenda. We must transition from opposition to the Bush agenda to demanding that the Democrats enact a truly progressive agenda.

And if Bush is reelected, we will clearly need an independent political force to oppose the right-wing agenda and put some backbone into those Democrats we can influence.

It is to be expected that there will be nuances in the way in which local groups put forward our “Bush must go” message. Some will not be able to be explicit with that message because of their non-profit status. Others who don’t have that constraint will have to determine what they have to say about Kerry, the Green Party candidate, if a decision is made to run one at its convention in late June, and independent Ralph Nader. Whatever decisions are made by local groups along these lines, what must unite all of us is our commitment to articulating an issue-oriented critique of the government currently in power and a positive, issue-oriented alternative.

As we do this work, those of us who are of European descent must consciously do outreach and build connections across lines of culture and nationality. This is necessary, short-term, because many of those who are turned off by our political/economic system whom we need to motivate to come out to vote are people of color. It is necessary, longer-term, because we will never, ever bring about the kinds of changes needed in this country without a broadly multi-cultural, pro-equality alliance.

August 29th and November 2: two key milestones for our movement, days to demonstrate globally and, on the 2nd, reap the rewards of serious grassroots work all over the U.S.A.
As the weather turns warmer, let’s get outside and organize!