[Marxism] The Million Worker March: Forging the Fightback

Douglas MacDonald doug.macdonald at netvista.net
Thu Dec 2 18:57:26 MST 2004

            December 2, 2004 (SF, CA) - The Million Worker March
Movement emerged from a historic summons to working people by ILWU Local
10, calling upon the rank and file of the labor movement, organized and
unorganized, to mobilize in our own name and to challenge the passivity
of the AFL-CIO leadership in the face of unrestrained class warfare
waged by the captains of capital against the mass of our people. 
             Working people need to have a political expression of our
own which is an alternative to the U.S. corporate sector that both the
Democrats and the Republicans represent. The timing of the March on
Washington was to prepare the beginning of a fight-back precisely
because the two political parties, acting as one, were confining
political discourse to the corporate agenda of permanent war,
destruction of all social services, and a relentless assault upon the
union movement itself.
            It was clear to us that the crisis in a labor movement whose
numbers had dwindled to under 12% of the work force in America, was
linked directly to the business unionism that has done everything
possible to stifle rank and file leadership. It is reflected in the
wholesale concessionary bargaining that has produced setback after
setback and led to the dismantling of the trade union movement. Pension
funds go belly-up, workers’ rights are eroded and, while all this
unfolds, dependence upon the Democratic Party deepens– a Party whose
funding, personnel, track record and program are at the very center of
the assault upon our class.
            Behind a façade of two parties, the captains of industry
call the political shots while labor has been put in the position of
providing cover for undisguised attacks upon working people.
            Here is a political party and a candidate who supported the
war in Iraq and attacked the Republican administration from the right
for “hesitating” to carry out a Guernica-like genocide in Fallujah. Here
was a party whose leadership called for increasing the military budget
by nearly $800 billion, adding 40,000 troops in Iraq, attacking Iran
preemptively, cutting social services and reducing the federal deficit
by slashing two million public sector jobs.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Kerry stated that his
administration would not only protect business but contain any challenge
to its rule. He stated that the election was about “a change in CEO,”
adding: “election day will be a national shareholders’ meeting.” 
John Kerry and the Democratic Party were unabashed in parading Kerry’s
key policy- makers before Wall Street and the financial media. His
economic policy maker was Warren Buffett, the right-wing Republican
billionaire who performed the same function for Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger. His economic team included Lee Iacocca of Chrysler
bail-out fame, David Bonderman of the Texas Pacific Group, who
bankrupted Continental and American West airlines, destroying union
jobs, while profiteering; Bank of America chairman, Charles Gifford,
August A. Busch IV, President of Anheuser-Busch, and Peter Chernin,
administrative director of the far-right Rupert Murdoch News,
Corporation – all registered Republicans and key financiers of the 2000
Presidential campaign of George W. Bush.
            John Kerry’s key foreign policy-makers featured Rand Beers,
who took over FEMA from Oliver North under Ronald Reagan and served on
the National Security Council for George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush
and William Perry of the Carlyle Group – the 14 billion dollar arms
conglomerate run by a “Who’s Who” of the Republican Party.
            In handing over union funds of well over $100 million to the
Democratic Party, labor was put in the position of funding a political
campaign waged on behalf of corporate capital, 
Who was to speak for working people? The Million Worker March undertook
to place front and forward the crisis facing working people and the
failure of the political parties to address it. We spelled out a working
peoples’ agenda and looked to the rank and file to mobilize in their own
            The timeliness of the March was related to the absence of
choice at a time of election. We said that the real election was the
decision of union locals across the country to advance our needs and to
call for action concerning universal health care, affordable housing, an
end to  profiteering and the hegemony of the merchants of death with
their program of perpetual war.
            John Sweeney and the AFL-CIO leadership sought to discourage
union endorsements of the March. They called upon unions and labor
council to cut off funds. They asserted that the defeat of George Bush
took precedence over a national worker mobilization that would address
the crisis facing labor.
            As endorsements by major trade unions grew and the Million
Worker March built regional committees across the country, the AFL-CIO
leadership issued statements in which they professed to support the aims
of the March while objecting to its timing.
 Unfortunately, these public statements were accompanied by stepped up
efforts behind the scenes to prevent locals from organizing buses and
sending supporters of the March to other locations.
We asked then as we assert now: Who spoke for the needs of working
Americans at a time of this election – the Democratic Party with its
corporate agenda or the Million Worker March movement with our demands
for universal health care, slashing the military budget, affordable
housing for all, a crash program to save our public schools, the
reconstruction of our decaying cities and a halt to the mad race to the
sweat-shop bottom that pit workers against each other across the world?
The Million Worker Movement understood the pressures upon people in the
movement for social justice to “dump Bush” and we reached out to all,
regardless of their expectations from the elections, to stand up for our
needs, to voice our demands and to prepare the terrain within rank and
file labor and the community for an ongoing movement for fundamental
change in America.
We know that many in USLAW supported the March and we were gratified
that Gene Bruskin spoke at the Lincoln Memorial, even though a formal
endorsement by USLAW, despite support for it, did not occur. We
regretted this at the time, but, today,, as Fallujah is devastated and a
relentless war of subjugation is unleashed in Iraq, the applause of the
leadership of the Democratic Party and deafening silence of the
leadership of the AFL-CIO speak to us with no less compelling urgency.
A hallmark of the Million Worker Movement has been the clear emergence
of Black working class leadership – through ILWU Local 10, The teamsters
National Black Caucus, District Council 1707 of AFSCME, the Transport
Workers Union in New York – in conjunction with union activists in every
sector of the labor movement, the immigrant rights movement and broad
sectors of the anti-war movement, notably in the International Action
Center and ANSWER.
Even as the Million Worker March on October 17 was a reflection of the
real composition of rank and file working people in America – both in
terms of rank and file activism and the involvement of the most
exploited sectors of the work force ­– the March was called to provide a
vehicle for real change and to end our political dependence upon our
            Today, working people face even greater assaults. Every
indicator of the U.S. economy reveals the crisis in which the system of
private ownership of the means of production now finds itself. The
deficit financing required to sustain imperial reach is matched by the
instability of the dollar as corporate and banking capital siphon off
trillions of dollars in profit.
            The international nature of corporate rule and the
exploitation it imposes upon working people is manifested most clearly
by the outsourcing of jobs to the sweatshops of the world. To pit
workers against each other in this way requires breaking the will of
working people in every country and, above all, to prevent a unified
workers’ fight-back across national frontiers. 
            That is the significance of the presence at the Lincoln
Memorial of representatives and messages of support from international
trade union federations representing 47.7 million organized workers.
            The Million Worker March movement is not centered in the
United States alone. It can  be found in the Railway Workers of Japan
who battle privatization. It is present in the Korean Confederation of
Trade Unions as it prepares a General Strike against the corporate
attempt to end full-time employment. It is manifested in the support
from the trade union federations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Venezuela, Brazil, Philippines and Spain .
            When Dora Chiba, the Japanese Railway Workers Union,
organized demonstrations against privatization and union- busting in
Tokyo, the Million Worker March was there. We joined a delegation to the
Tokyo offices of the company that owned the hotels locking out hotel
workers in the U.S..
            The Million Worker March followed up in San Francisco.
Together with the San Francisco Labor Council and Hotel Workers Local 2,
we co-sponsored a unity rally on November 20 and led rank and file
members of unions across the Bay Area to join the picket lines at five
major hotels.
            The lock-out was ended that day – a strong indication that a
unified struggle of working people – nationally and internationally – is
the way to win strikes, beat back scabs and regain the offensive for
working people.
The international fightback initiated by the Million Worker March
Movement takes note of the weakness of the U.S.. dollar that occurs at a
moment when  the U.S.  Government Accountability Office has calculated a
“fiscal gap” – the amount necessary to pay off U.S. indebtedness ­– ­ at
$72 trillion. Much of the debt paper is held by overseas investors whose
incentive to remain in dollar holdings diminishes daily.
            The one percent of the population that now owns more than
the combined wealth of 95% of the population is compelled to intensify
drastically the exploitation of our labor in order to sustain what is
increasingly shown to be precarious rule.
            Andrew Stern and the leadership of SEIU have called for
organizational changes within the structure of the AFL-CIO to address
the malaise afflicting the labor movement in America. Clearly, labor is
in urgent need of a new strategy and a vision that can galvanize working
The Million Worker March movement poses the necessity for labor to
answer the crisis facing working people in America through a declaration
of political independence. If working people are to confront and to
redress a system in terminal decay, we shall need to build a political
vehicle and party that fights for our program and is answerable at every
level to the rank and file, whose expression it must be.
Never has there been a more opportune moment for rank and file working
people to forge a mass movement for fundamental change. Rarely has the
importance of unity in struggle been more compelling along an axis of
class independence. 
We need unity in action based upon the mobilization of the rank and
file. We have the opportunity to wage this struggle not only in the
United States but in conjunction with the ongoing fight-back of labor in
many countries.
            Now is the time for the Million Worker Movement, U.S. Labor
Against the War, the Labor Party, and organizations committed to a rank
and file fightback to act in unison. 
            We call for organized discussion to prepare joint action
against the war in Iraq and the policies of permanent war.
            We urge the opening of discussions with ANSWER, the
International Action Center, Veterans  for Peace, Iraqi Veterans Against
the War, and Gulf War Veterans for common action on March 19 in New York
around a unified call for an immediate end to the war in Iraq and
withdrawal of all occupation forces.
            We call upon U.S. Labor Against the War, the Labor Party,
Black Workers For Justice  to join the Million Worker March Movement in
reclaiming May Day as the day of the international workers’ movement and
to call an international action around the list of demands set forth by
the Million Worker March.
            In forging a unified rank and file movement to resist the
wars of subjugation of U.S. rulers we defend the working class at home
and abroad. In acting together for independent political action, we can
emancipate working people from the deadly embrace of a leadership that
has abandoned the struggle and forge a political expression of our own.
            In identifying the class nature of the oppression afflicting
us, we can prepare the way for a workers’ agenda for the transformation
of our society and for the democratic control by the working class of
the levers of governance in every society.

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