[Marxism] The National Equality March: A New Generation of Protesters

John Obrien causecollector at msn.com
Tue Oct 13 20:58:53 MDT 2009

Having been on the National Steering Committees of the 1979 and 1987 National Lesbian and Gay Rights Marches on Washington DC - here is my feedback: 


This Oct 11, 2009 event (so called March) was poorly attended - and much smaller compared to the previous real national marches.

The major reason is that it was called and controlled by three people!  There was no national organizing conference, as in the previous three national marches (1979, 1987, 1993) that invited all to participate and to set up a political and financial accountable organization, that was grass roots based. The three main organizers of this 10/11/09 event who controlled everything - were democratic party adherents, who wanted to keep this as a lobbying/pressure group and not to let it get beyond that.  They succeeded in controlling it - but did not advance the GLBT Movement, by what they did.


This so called march - which was more a staged event - was a setback - not an advance for the GLBT Movement.  Instead of following a good tradition of having a grass roots based demorcratic decision making organization, that was inclusive and welcoming - this top down controlled event, instead took place.


We expected many young people who never had the oportunity before to participate in a real national GLBT March, to be lured to this event.  The three organizers counted on that.

However, they were disappointed by the response of the larger majority of the GLBT Community gave them. - and not because of being pro-Obama - but because of what they were trying to do.  Many long time activists and fortunately a number of new ones, understood how undemocratic and self-serving this event was.


What I was surprised about is how the ISO and RCP added their names as endorsers - without even thinking - was this a good thing to build the GLBT Movement - and the best way.  The ISO and RCP apparently had not thought out a political understanding or goals to build a mass independent GLBT Movement, but just to tail after some bourgeois democrats.


As with other small sectarian sects, they apparently in supporting this undemocratic event, counter their own little vanguard parties for people to join, than to actually promote and build a mass independent movement.  A better course of action would be to sincerely build a mass independent movement. Had they been seen as the best builders of promoting a real independent mass GLBT Movement, they could become leaders of this movement and the communities it represents.


But the ISO and RCP never reached out to the previous National March organizers or do any serious outreach to the many existing community organizations - to analyze what was this event for and about - but instead chased after this event, to follow the democratic party operatives and without considering the political demands, outcome and may I mention - any financial accountability, along with political accountability.  They thought it was great because it appeared to be protesting the Obama government - when it actually was to only beg and lobby and promise to be loyal defenders of that government, if some speech was made - without any concrete changes, in including poor and working people to decision making.


I saw one ISO member state they were so proud to have brought 40 buses from New York City!  Forty buses - that is two thousand people and in 2009 that is not saying very much about good organizing!  Thus instead of thousands of buses from that city alone - forty buses and this is considered successful?  The 1993 March (before the internet) had a million participants. This one had a small fraction of that size!


Was this small Oct 11, 2009 turnout due to so many people not wanting to protest the Obama govenrment - or just bad organizing.  I believe mainly the later.  


I did not attend this event in Wash DC this weekend. I watched it on CSPAN with my partner hoping to see some break with the democratic party - but there was none! 


In 1987, I led the Los Angeles Committee that brought over 30,000 people from Los Angeles alone, to that real national march and helped to bring from California, over a hundred thousand - which is more than what showed up in total on this Sunday (with today's internet - that was not available 22 years ago).


Is this because support for GLBT Rights has declined - or interest in the GLBT Movement?

No - it is not that - so I suggest we look at the misleaders and misorganizers of this event, as responsbile for the poor showing.  Had they instead allowed a national open organizing process for this - the march would have taken place far differently and next year instead, with the focus not on lobbying, as this event was.


What was possibly established, by the ISO and others going to this event - was to allow both allow left cover to the organizers, to appear progressive and to allow any rich billionaire or another small unrepresented body in the future, to call in name for a National March - and that is the major disservice done by this event - to tear down the progress and tradition and hard work done, to build a united powerful movement, that the three previous real National Marches did - in 1979, 1987, 1993.


David Mixner the main person behind this event (who just endorsed the Republican Bloomberg for relection as mayor of New York City!) and who worked to oppose the Single Payer health referendum in California not long ago - was who benefited from this event.  Watch the money raised from this event and see who received funds.   


We heard a great deal at this Sunday event, about marriage and inclusion in the U. S. military - but little or nothing about ending U.S. government support to governments that murder and abuse GLBT people, or of those among the two million in U. S. prisons, or among the poor and working people - and the physical and psychological violence.  They had one labor person from the RWDSU who mentioned employment and housing discrimination - and the only other speaker (Urvashi Viad) who mentioned the wars and how atttacks on working people and the environment and homophobia need to all be struggled against and opposed.  The rest of the speakers promoted lobbying and working inside the democratic party - which was not a very good political message that I got from this so called march for equality.  That there were not even concrete demands but a vague equality word - took away from the three former real national marches in 1979, 1987 and 1993 that all had specific demands.  But those were organized democratically and welcomed grass roots involvement at all levels - unlike this event that was controlled top down and had the ISO as cheerleaders for this dangerous departure from a hard fought and proud hsitory of accomplishment. 


The tone of this march was politically more conservative than the three previous national marches - I was embarassed about the pro-nationalist speeches and little mention of those in the U. S. or around the world in their daily struggles of survival against the wealthy.


Is it any wonder that so many call the ISO - the International Student Organization - when they blunder like this - tailing and following democratic party hacks - instead of analyzing and offering real leadership?  I happen to be politically close to much of the ISO political program, but their lack of judgement, only moves me and others further from joining them.


The ISO can learn from the older generation of GLBT protestors, who actually know how to build a mass movement - to avoid future such mistakes - that embarass those who try to educate about the democratic party operatives interest, in only personal and financial gain, over the interests of the masses of GLBT people.  But then they would have to learn more about the GLBT community and work in it - and not just try to recruit a few to their party as a great acheivement.  In the long run, they will lose these same people, they temporarily recruit, if that is all that is really offered.


Not truly immersing into a movement to build and lead, but instead to just try and recruit a few people - is what has in part led to the current isolation of the U.S. left today - that has become cheerleaders but not builders, of any mass movements presently today. Instead the Democratic Party operatives keep tight control of these various peoples communities - and this event this past Sunday in Washington DC, is just another example.


But I am hopeful that the poor and oppressed will see though this - and not follow blindly such leaders - as a "Father Gapon". Maybe the ISO can learn to analyze and have a thought out program, with concrete actions that build independent movements and not just tail after ones controlled by bourgois operatives.



John O'Brien




 > Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2009 09:32:20 -0500
> From: proletariandan at gmail.com
> Subject: [Marxism] The National Equality March: A New Generation of Protesters
> I'm surprised I haven't seen anything on the list about Sunday's
> march. This was my first march on Washington and was incredible; I was
> shocked how many (mostly young) people turned out due to sheer
> frustration with Obama and the Democrats. This is one of many openings
> for the left and a very bright spot in an otherwise dull political
> landscape. For folks in Chicago there is a follow-up meeting next week
> at the Lincoln Park Public Library. Also, Sherri Wolf will be speaking
> about her book 'Sexuality and Socialism' at the Midwest Socialist
> Conference in November. 
> > 
> http://socialistworker.org/2009/10/12/we-demand-full-equality
> http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1929747,00.html
> The march on Washington that gays staged Sunday on the National Mall
> drew something like 200,000 people — that's a good guess based on
> conversations with many of the organizers and local authorities,
> although estimates of Mall crowds are notoriously unreliable. But one
> number you can take to the bank: the average age of those backstage
> who wore walkie-talkie headsets and staff badges, the men (and a few
> women) who were behind much of the organizing effort, wasn't over 30.
> And that, by far, was the oddest thing about the march: Why would a
> generation wired to their mobile phones and Facebook accounts nearly
> from birth want to resurrect a form of political expression as old and
> musty as a mass gathering?
> > 
> Right then I thought of a conversation I had had with Ting, the young
> private-equity associate and march organizer. He had told me that he
> didn't know that in 1993, Mixner — the gay activist and friend of Bill
> Clinton's who helped agitate for this year's march — had been arrested
> outside the White House for opposing Clinton's infamous "Don't ask,
> don't tell" policy for gays in the military, the same policy that gays
> are now impatiently waiting on Obama to overturn. "A lot of us were 9
> or 10 years old in 1993," Ting had said to me. I wondered if today's
> 9- and 10-year-old gays and lesbians would remember this march. Ting
> and his friends have a lot of work ahead of them to make sure they do.


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