Editors' Note:: Left Hook has officially endorsed the Million Worker March, which has taken the important step of linking anti-war and pro-working-class politics, and is spearheaded by union workers. We view it as undoubtedly one of the most important and promising launching points for a reinvigorated American left. Visit their official website and consider donating there to cover the march's expenses.

The Million Worker March

- by Pankaj Mehta

If the labor movement and the radical left more generally is able to revitalize itself in the next forty years, October 17, 2004 may be a date that perceptive historians point to as marking a turning point in American politics. This date will not be significant because the march on Washingoton will be particularly large. I do not expect more than a hundred thousand workers to be in Washington. Nor will it be significant because the march will result in immediate, significant changes. I do not expect free higher education and universal health care to suddenly become a reality. Nor do I expect that the troops will suddenly be brought home. Instead, the significance of the date will lie in the message and its medium.

For the first time since the destruction of the CIO, a broad coalition with a significant representation from organized labor will rally around class-based demands, The interjection of class based thinking and demands into the American political spectrum had marked the rise of the two largest movements to curb capitalist power in America, Populism and the American labor movement. Only time will tell if the Million Worker March (MWM) marks the rise of a similarly powerful democratizing social force.

The twenty-two point list of demands for the Million Worker March reads like a page from a modern day Communist Manifesto and includes, "free universal single payer health care from cradle to the grave that ends the stranglehold of greedy insurance companies", "a repeal of Taft Hartley and all anti-labor legislation" , "a national living wage", "guaranteed pensions", "a national living wage", "slash(ing) the military budge and recover(ing) the trillions of dollars stolen from our labor to enrich the corporations that profit from war", an an end to the US war in Iraq, an extension "of democracy to our economic structure so that all decisions affecting the lives of our citizen are made by working people who produce all value through their labor" and "repeal of the Patriot Act".

What is even more significant is that the march explicitly rejects the Democratic Party as a vehicle to achieve the goals of the march. In fact, they emphasize that "only our own independent mobilization of working people across America can open the way to addressing our needs and our agenda." This message of self-valorization of the working class is even more apparent if one considers how the march was organized and conceived. The Million Worker March is an initiative that comes from the rank and file of the longshoreman's union in the bay area, International Longshoreman and Warehouseman's Union (ILWU) 10. As Marcus Harvey, National Treasurer of the March stated in a forum in New Brunswick, NJ, what is amazing about this march is that in its early stages, it was almost entirely organized by rank-and-file longshoreman and a motley crew of Bay area leftists. The march only gained prominence nationally as rank-and-file union members pushed their union leadership into supporting the march in spite direct orders from the AFL-CIO "not to sponsor or devote resources to the demonstration in Washington, D.C",

Since the AFL-CIO issued this order at the end of June, the MWM has only gotten bigger and more powerful. A the "real" Clarence Thomas , an official with the ILWU, stated in a recent interview with Seven Oaks magazine:

"The march has grown into a movement. And I think what the AFL-CIO was able to do with their position of non-endorsement of the march is that it stifled presidents of international unions from contributing money. They have been very effective at that. It has in no way stopped the rank-and-file, because the rank-and-file are the people that are feeling the pain. It's the rank-and-file that have gotten tired of the concessionary bargaining that's going on, and in some instances you have business unionism types that are heading certain international unions. It's important to understand this. Despite the fact of the letter that was issued that basically went out as a memo dated June 23, they have not been able to stop the rank-and-file organizing this thing. The rank-and-file want it...

"But they have been able to put the kibosh on us receiving funding from major labor organizations, because of the fact that they have made a decision to give all of the money to John Kerry. And John Kerry is giving labor noting in return."

Pankaj Mehta, 25, is a Graduate Student in Physics, Rutgers University, and can be reached here: pankay@physics.rutgers.edu

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